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.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Brilliant News

I cannot be happier. Today, I was offered a new job, which I accepted of course. So, with the afternoon at my disposal, I did some celebratory birding. This resulted in me bumping into the Iceland Gull at Radipole Lake. It wasn't there for long though, as it soon flew off in the direction of Weymouth Bay. 



2nd-winter Iceland Gull.

Also at Radipole Lake was this interesting 1st-winter Herring Gull.


The bird that interests me is the bird on the left. Compared with the bird on the right, note the fresher looking coverts. Also, note the tertial pattern with oak leaf dark centres and the masked area around the eye.

The bird is in the centre of the image here. Compared with the bird on the left, note the differences in tertial pattern and wear. Also, the fresher wing coverts compared with the left hand bird. Note the under-tail pattern, with pale marbling invading the dark tail band. 

Not the best shot of it flying away here, but you can make out the white tail with a blackish tail band, the latter with white marbling. Also of interest is the solidly dark outer most greater coverts. Though the features on this bird are subtle, I believe this bird is certainly showing characteristics of Scandinavian Herring Gull Larus argentatus argentatus.
 To finish off, a couple of photos from Lodmoor

Little Egret with a fish, that obviously hasn't had as good a day as me. It's pain was short lived you'll be pleased to know and the Little Egret was no doubt quite pleased with itself. There's winners and losers in this game.

Female Green Woodpecker.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Avocet Brightens A Dull Day

Thanks to texts from Daragh and Dick, the day was enlivened by the appearance of an Avocet at Lodmoor. Thinking back, my first ever Avocet was at Lodmoor many moons ago. Considering the numbers in Poole Harbour, they are still a scarce, though annual occurrence locally, so I thought I'd better connect with this one to get it on my photo year list.

The light was dreadful, but you can see what it is.



And finally, something from Saturday.


Grey Heron at Radipole Lake.

 These two species bring my 10km square photo year list to 81.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Meds Glorious Meds

Went to Littlesea, on The Fleet today. Fairly quiet, with the highlights being singles of Golden Plover, Black Redstart and Knot and 5 each of Grey Plovers and Bar-tailed Godwits. The Mediterranean Gulls are starting to look good now. Give it a week or two and many will be in full summer plumage. Also, saw the Black Redstart at the end of my road again today, plus Bittern, Chiffchaff and Marsh Harriers at Radipole Lake.



Who said gulls were horrible. Mediterranean Gulls are stunningly beautiful creatures.




But, what are they feeding on? Comments will be welcome on this.




Tuesday, 19 February 2013

My Garden Revisited

The Siberian Chiffchaff reappeared in my garden this afternoon giving exemplary views.

What a little cracker.

Whilst photographing the Sibe Chiff, couldn't resist adding this Dunnock to my photo year list. Oh, how I prefer the name Hedge Accentor.

My 10km photo year list increases to 79.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Time To Reacquaint Myself

Lets start off with yesterday. Bob and Tricia kindly allowed access to their garden, so that Ian and Luke could attempt to trap the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat. Here, Ian Dodd takes up the story.

The Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca complex comprises a number of clades that are not fully resolved, although the authors of a recent publication proposed that the names althaea, blythi, curruca, halimodendri, margelanica and minula should be used for the major ones  (Olsson U et al.  Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2013  67  72-85).  The nominate curruca is the form known to breed in the UK and the occurrence of a couple of other forms, blythi and halimodendri, are rare, mainly occurring in autumn.  In Dorset, winter records of Lesser Whitethroat are extremely rare.  On 2nd December 2012, Brett found a Lesser Whitethroat in his garden in Weymouth, but on the views he obtained, was unable to name it to form. Amazingly, not too far away, Bob and Tricia had found a Lesser Whitethroat in their garden on 11th January 2013. Our attention was drawn to the presence of this over-wintering bird visiting their well stocked feeding station. After a visit by Brett to confirm the identity and obtain field photographs, which confirmed it to be the same bird as that seen in his garden (see photo below), we visited the garden on 16th February to try to trap the bird and see whether we could get more information on it’s possible origins.  The visit was successful, the bird was trapped within 3 minutes of erecting a mist net. It was ringed, processed, photographed and then released. The bird had returned to the feeding station within 10 minutes of release.

On the views obtained in the field, it was tentatively identified as a Siberian Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca blythi.

The biometrics of the trapped bird, which was not assigned an age, were recorded as follows:

Wing   66 mm
Tail   52 mm
Bill  12.5 mm
2nd primary  = 6/7 (unmeasured estimation)
Weight   10.5 g

1st primary   3 mm > p.c.
2nd        - 3 mm
3rd           longest
4th           longest
5th           - 1 mm
6th        - 3 mm

Showing the outer tail pattern, confirming it to be of eastern origin. © Ian Dodd

Showing the spread wing detail. © Ian Dodd

It is thought to be significant that the colour of the iris was clearly much paler (cream-grey) than the rest of the eye (this is evident in some of the photographs) and perhaps give some clue as to the age of the bird.

In addition, three contour feathers were accidentally shed during processing and these will be sent for DNA analysis, which will hopefully fully confirm it's subspecific identification.

We would like to thank Bob and Tricia for drawing our attention to the bird in the first instance and for being such wonderful hosts.

Thanks Ian for your input on this bird.

Now back to today. It's been along time, 25 years to be exact, since I last saw a Pied-billed Grebe. So, with one having taken up residence in Somerset, I couldn't resist paying it a visit.


Pied-billed Grebe at the brilliant Ham Walls RSPB reserve.

Also here were singles of.....

Great White Egret.

And Marsh Harrier.

Earlier in the day, connected with 2 of the Hawfinches in the cemetery at Bruton.



Hawfinch.

And finally, 1 more to add to my 10km square photo year list was this....

Drake Pochard at Radipole Lake on Friday.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Perseverance Pays Off

Today, I managed a couple of quick stop offs. First stop was Radipole Lake, where I took the opportunity to look at Cormorants again.

Two Continental Cormorants, an adult and a sub adult. Note the shape of the gular skin at the rear, which shows no angling in towards the bill.  Worth comparing with the North Atlantic Cormorant in the previous post.

Later on, paid a brief visit to Sandsfoot Castle, overlooking Portland Harbour. The highlight here was a count of 17 Slavonian Grebes, all of which were to the north east of the castle and all very close into the shore. Good to see the numbers, of what is my favourite of the grebes, picking up somewhat. The Black-necked Grebes definitely like the deeper water and were, as usual, much further out. Due to the very low tide, I suspect that they had dispersed somewhat, as I could only find 12. Also, the Eider and Red-necked Grebe were finally nailed properly with the camera. Other birds noted were the 2 Velvet Scoters, 1 Great Northern Diver, 4 Common Scoter and rather oddly, a single female Pochard.

1st-year female Eider. This and the next photo are much improved efforts me thinks, after the barely identifiable efforts from last time. 

Red-necked Grebe.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Just An Update

Popped down to Radipole Lake Monday evening, but nothing of note, other than a couple of photo year ticks.


Adult male North Atlantic Cormorant.

1st-year Continental Cormorant.

Blimey, check out the knackered lower mandible on this adult Common Gull.

Yesterday, I thought I'd check out the Woodland Trust reserve at Chickerell Downs. The best could manage here was 9 Siskins.



Male Siskin.

This Wren was really going for it. Spring is but just around the corner.

Then I had a quick look at Portland Harbour from the Sandsfoot area, with 5 Slavonian and 20 Black-necked Grebes and 2 Velvet Scoters noted.


A slight improvement on my efforts to photograph the Black-necked Grebes. A couple here are starting to moult into summer plumage.

On getting home, the wintering Black Redstart was at the end of my road. The Black Redstart was still present this morning, plus I had 2 Blackcaps in the garden.


A naff photo of one of the two male Blackcaps today, taken through the kitchen window.

My 10km square photo year list increases to 77.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Now, That's What I Call Bad Luck

 Let's start with that poll.

So, the Dorset bird of the month, as voted by you, was the Hoopoe at Hamworthy. Well done to the finder of this bird.

Here are the final results.

The Glossy Ibis at Christchurch Harbour got 4% of the vote.
The Pink-footed Goose at Holmebridge got 4% of the vote.
The Hoopoe at Hamworthy got 34% of the vote.
The Tundra Bean Geese at Longham Lakes got 17% of the vote.
The Siberian Lesser Whitethroat at Weymouth got 26% of the vote.
The Common Rosefinch at Broadstone got 13% of the vote. 

As with all things voted for by the public, the right choice is not necessarily the right answer. Sure, the Hoopoe was probably the most widely appreciated rare bird of the month, but a winter Hoopoe in Dorset is not an unprecedented occurrence. I suspect people voted with their hearts and not with their heads. For me, the bird of the month was the Common, oh, how I hate that word, let's say Scarlet, yes, Scarlet Rosefinch. Ok, it hasn't been widely viewed, but that's not the point here. It's an exceptional record and unprecedented in Dorset to have one wintering. Strangely, even the Tundra Bean Geese got more votes, as did the Siberian Lesser Whitethroat. What does this teach us? Well, it's not necessarily the bird we saw that deserves the vote, but the best record that deserves recognition. Well done to all the finders of these birds and thanks to the people who took time to vote.


On the 31st January I was made redundant and I'm, at present, out of work. Maybe, somebody reading this blog could provide me with work, I'd certainly be very grateful. 

So, luck is not on my side at the moment, but when we talk about bad luck, I must mention my good friend Fred. Last Sunday, whilst dog walking and birding at Portland Bill, he jumped over a puddle and slipped. Not so bad you may think, but on landing, he landed awkwardly and broke his leg in 3 places. Now, that's what I call bad luck. But worse than that, because of his leg, he had to cancel his birding holiday to Israel in March. How cruel is that, a double whammy of bad luck.

Drama at Portland. © Martin Cade

There's Fred just peeking over the cockpit. © Martin Cade

And off he goes to hospital in style. © Martin Cade

Holy crap, that's not good.

All fixed up with a plate and pins.

Wishing you a speedy and successful recovery buddy.

Yesterday, my wife and I popped over to Ian's, who'd trapped and ringed a female Great Spotted Woodpecker.

And here she is, before being released successfully. © Karen Spencer