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.

Monday, 31 December 2012

New For 2013

Firstly, back to yesterday. Spent the morning birding Weymouth Bay and Portland Harbour.  Highlights were 6 Great Northern Divers and 5 Red-throated Divers in Weymouth Bay, 2 Black Redstarts at The Nothe, whilst Portland Harbour returned totals of 5 Great Northern Divers, 5 Slavonian Grebes, 13 Black-necked Grebes, 2 Velvet Scoters and an Eider.

2 Slavonian Grebes from Sandsfoot Castle.

A bit of a closer view of one of those Slavonian Grebes.

Great Northern Diver in Portland Harbour from Sandsfoot Castle.

So, it's nearly 2013. So what's new for this blog.

Inspired by Nick Hopper's 2012 photographic year list, I have decided to do my own in 2013. The difference between mine and the one that Nick has done, is that the list will be of identifiable forms and I will be restricted to an area of 10km square. The area this will cover is The Fleet from Rodden Hive in the west to Ferrybridge in east, with sea to the south and north of this to Rodden village in the west to Chalbury Fort in the east. The area also takes in most of Portland Harbour and Weymouth Bay. The Littlesea area of The Fleet will figure prominently in this challenge, as I want the blog to feature a patch. I have given myself a target of 165 forms and all photos should be of reasonable quality and the forms should be identifiable from the images taken. Should be fun I think. Hopefully it should concentrate my efforts at finding stuff, but it doesn't mean I'm not gonna be birding elsewhere.

2012 saw The Fleet Vs Portland, but this was a one off event. Wanting to get people out looking, 2013 will see the DORSET  RARE  BIRD  OF  THE  YEAR  AWARD.  There are rules of course and these are:

1. The bird has to be well observed and appreciated by more than a few people.

2. The bird has to be well photographed.

I'm hoping to get an adjudication panel together to vote on the bird that deserves the award and a presentation will be made to the finder of the bird, of which a venue has yet to be arranged. Hopefully we can make an evening of it to bring local birders together. I will keep you updated regularly as the year progresses.

I'm also thinking of somehow getting readers of this blog more involved, but don't quite know how to go about this just yet. For instance, by way of a poll on a certain subject.

Finally, I like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy 2013. Good birding to everyone.

Friday, 28 December 2012

My Highlights Of 2012 (Part 2)

My highlights of the second half of the year. I'd like to thank the other photographers that have contributed to this and the last post.


One of the birds of the year, this stunningly beautiful adult White-winged Black Tern graced Lodmoor for 3 days. One of those birds, where you couldn't help going back for more.

The first of 3 male Honey Buzzards seen during the month. This pale morph bird was a real cracker.

This male Honey Buzzard displayed right over my head.

This was the third male Honey Buzzard of the month. All 3 males were watched displaying. For me, watching a Honey Buzzard displaying truly is an awesome experience and it never fails to excite me.


This Buff-breasted Sandpiper on The Fleet at Ferrybridge was a patch tick. Seen in near darkness on it's first day, going back the next day for better photos failed dismally, as it flew off high to the west on arrival. 

This 1st-summer male Woodchat Shrike performed well on The Fleet at Littlesea.

Cattle Egret at Abbotsbury.

This Wryneck on The Fleet at Tidmoor proved quite elusive.


This Short-billed Dowitcher, that turned up at Lodmoor, was a widely appreciated bird, being only the second record for Britain and my first. Here you can see that it has started moulting from juvenile to 1st-winter plumage.

Continuing it's good run, this Wryneck turned up on The Fleet at Littlesea.

Red-backed Shrike on Portland.

Another elusive Wryneck on The Fleet at Tidmoor.


Another good bird on The Fleet at Littlesea, was this very elusive Yellow-browed Warbler© Geoff Rogers

This juvenile Purple Heron spent most of it's time skulking in the reedbeds at Radipole Lake. It would occasionally be seen in flight though.

One of two adult Black Brants that returned to winter on The Fleet.

The major surprise of the year. This Pale-legged Leaf Warbler on Portland was not only the first record for Britain, but also the first for Europe. A quite extroardinary record when one considers how far to the east of us it's normal range is. Not only that, it happened to take up temporary residence in a birders garden. You can just about pick out the pale pink legs and feet in this image.

My second new bird in as many days, this gorgeous adult male 'DaurianIsabelline Shrike on Portland was, for me, bird of the year locally.

Portland struck again with this Siberian Stonechat. DNA analysis confirmed it was of the form 'stejnegeri' and as such, is the first confirmed record for Britain of this form. Portland really was on a roll.

The Subalpine Warbler on Portland.

Long-eared Owl on Portland.


The Great Grey Shrike at Morden Bog.


This seemed to be the month of wonderfully confiding birds. It started with this Snow Bunting on The Fleet at Ferrybridge.

A welcome lifer for me, albeit not the most exciting, was this confiding 'American' Buff-bellied Pipit at Queen Mother Reservoir in Berkshire. Very much a birders bird this and one I'd like to find in Dorset. 

The year ended in fine style, with this stunning 'Hornemann'sArctic Redpoll that pleased the crowds at Aldeburgh, in Suffolk. Having seen several 'Coues's' Arctic Redpolls previously, I wouldn't be exaggerating in saying that this, my first 'Hornemann's', was one of the birds of the year for me. Beauty, rarity and extremely confiding behaviour conspired to make this a real favourite with many and as such, became the most photographed bird of the year.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

My Highlights of 2012 (Part 1)

For me, it's been a year of finding very little, yet seeing a great deal.  

My highlights of the first half of the year.


2012 started in fine style, with this long staying Richard's Pipit on The Fleet at Littlesea.

The same site also hosted this wintering Hume's Warbler and thus, along with the pipit, attracted a constant stream of admirers.

These stunning drake Ring-necked Ducks were well worth seeing at Chard Junction Gravel Pits. I always think it's worth visiting and finding these out of the way sites, just in case something really important is found at them.    © Jeff Hazell

On the way back from the ducks, it seemed rude not to take a look at the 1st-winter Spotted Sandpiper, that had been loosely associating with the wintering Purple Sandpipers, at Lyme Regis. © Peter Moore

Having never seen this species in Britain before, I couldn't resist going for this dapper male Spanish Sparrow in Hampshire. © Peter Moore

Also, in Hampshire, and on the way back from the sparrow, this 1st-winter male 'Slate-coloured' Dark-eyed Junco was an excellent bonus. © Peter Moore


It wasn't long before I was off twitching again. This time, the attraction was my first ever Parrot Crossbill, this female having taken up temporary residence in West Sussex.

On the way back from the crossbill, this wintering Rough-legged Buzzard at Burpham, West Sussex, was an excellent bonus, although it was always distant. © Nick Bond

One of three Iceland Gulls seen during the first part of the year. This and one other at Radipole Lake and one that flew past me whilst seawatching off Chesil Beach from Littlesea.

This stunning 1st-winter male 'CommonYellowthroat in Gwent, south Wales, was a first for me. Without doubt, one of the birds of the year.

Bonus birds on the way back from a twitch, seemed to becoming a bit of a habit, with this Lesser Scaup also being seen in south Wales.

This Cackling Goose in Somerset courted controversy. Was it a truly wild bird from North America, or an escape from a wildfowl collection? It's a bloody good job that I've seen a couple on Islay previous to this individual. Whatever it's origin, it was still good to see it on the way back from the Yellowthroat.

After some correspondence with other birders, it was felt that this 1st-winter Herring Gull at Radipole Lake showed characteristics of the Scandinavian form 'argentatus'. This form is rare in Dorset.


Ring Ouzel on The Fleet at Littlesea.


One of two Glossy Ibises that were seen at Radipole Lake.

The single Glossy Ibis that remained at Radipole Lake, was joined by a Black-winged Stilt. From a British context, this must surely be quite a unique photo.

Views of the Black-winged Stilt were amazing when it had relocated to The Fleet at Abbotsbury Swannery. A much wanted patch tick.


A Cattle Egret at Lodmoor.

A Hoopoe on The Fleet at Cloud's Hill. I managed to walk past another one at Littlesea the very same day. Only trouble was, it was the other side of some bushes and as a consequence, I was totally unaware of it's presence, until a photo was produced of it later that day. I never did see the Littlesea bird.

Female Kentish Plover on The Fleet at Ferrybridge.

It came as something of a surprise, finding 5 White Storks flying over whilst walking the dog. This was part of a wide ranging flock. This photo was captured when they later flew over Portland. © Martin Cade

Something of an after work dash was in order for this beauty. I didn't, for one minute, imagine my first Cream-coloured Courser was going to be an adult in spring. The undoubted highlight of the year for me. The Herefordshire countryside was indeed blessed with the presence of this bird.

This Great Reed Warbler at Radipole Lake announced it's presence with it's distinctive croaky song. 

Black-winged Stilts were a bit like buses this year. This one turned up at Lodmoor.

The same day as the one on Lodmoor, this one on The Fleet at Abbotsbury Swannery turned up. Unlike the April bird, this Black-winged Stilt was far more uncooperative for me. 

Roseate Tern at Lodmoor.


This Gull-billed Tern graced Lodmoor for one afternoon.