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.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Highlights Of 2014 Part 2 (July - End Of Year)

The mid Summer period was very quiet for me, with the best being a Goshawk in North Dorset. 

For the lucky few at Portland Bird Observatory though, they were treated to a flyby Black-browed Albatross on 5th July. Other than a Glossy Ibis at Christchurch, it certainly was a quiet spell.

What would the Autumn bring? Well, it certainly started off with a bang, with a major Dorset blocker finally falling. A Bonelli's Warbler in the Portland Bird Observatory Garden.

This was a well overdue lifer for me. © Steve Smith

Other than that though, Autumn was definitely a slow burner and it was not until almost mid September that the first of the scarce drift migrants finally put on a show.

Red-backed Shrike at Radipole Lake.

Wryneck at Portland Bill.

A very elusive Barred Warbler at Portland Bill.

Wryneck at Portland Bird Observatory.

It even included the first Yellow-browed Warblers of the Autumn.

This one was at Portland Bill.

My only find of September was a fly over Dotterel at Portland Bill. The month closed though, with the identification of a Siberian Lesser Whitethroat in the Observatory quarry at Portland Bill.

DNA confirmed the identification.

October, as ever, was full of anticipation, but it proved to be very poor. It started with a Rose-coloured Starling on Portland.

It says something when you see more Rosey Starlings than Turtle Doves in a year.

My only one all year.

The month ended with 3 Yellow-browed Warblers at Radipole Lake. A site record day count for this delightful species.

So, not a single British Birds rarity was recorded in Dorset during October, in fact, the highlights elsewhere in Dorset during the September/October period amounted to just a couple each of Little Buntings and Cranes, singles of Pallas's, Icterine and Marsh Warblers and a few Pectoral Sandpipers, amongst the usual array of scarce migrants. It was certainly a lean spell locally for the rarity hunter.

Certain other parts of the country were having something of a bonanza though, with Yorkshire producing two lifers for me. First up was the Masked Shrike at Spurn. 

© Peter Moore

A Red-breasted Flycatcher at the same site was a bonus.

Then, a trip further north to Brotton was in order, to pay homage to the Eastern Crowned Warbler that had taken up temporary residence.

A superstar phylloscopus and my highlight of the year.

Yellow-browed Warbler and a couple of Rough-legged Buzzards were bonuses on that trip.

Will I ever see a Rough-legged Buzzard in Dorset?

Things seemed to be getting on for more predictable fair locally in November, with  one of the Black Guillemots returning to winter in Portland Harbour and then a little rush of goodies from Abbotsbury Swannery.

Green-winged Teal.

Surf Scoter.

Greenland White-fronted Goose.

Then, Christchurch Harbour came up trumps with an Isabelline Shrike.

In what was a terrible year for me, when it came to personal finds, my last contribution was a Siberian Chiffchaff at Littlesea Holiday Camp.

November in Dorset can be very exciting and this one was truly that, with such highlights as White-winged Black Tern, a couple of Dusky Warblers, a Ring-billed Gull, a few Hoopoes and an excellent passage of Pomarine Skuas. But, the one many of us would have liked to have seen was the Little Bustard at West Bexington. A well deserved find by it's patch stalwarts Alan Barrett and Mike Morse.

What a totally gripping photo. © Mike Morse

The Autumn prolonged itself with the appearance of a Barred Warbler at Portland Bird Observatory and after the frustrating views of the one earlier, it was great to get prolonged views of this individual.

It did like them yer apples.

Otherwise, typical winter fare was then the order of the day in December, with a couple of Tundra Bean Geese and a single Caspian Gull putting in brief appearances.

One of the Bean Geese© Peter Moore

The lucky people on Brownsea also had a brief visit from a Lesser Yellowlegs.

Birds that seem to be in for the winter though, were Great White Egret in Poole Harbour and Richard's Pipit in Weymouth.

I'd like to thank Martin Cade, Peter Moore, Steve Smith and Mike Morse for use of their photos in the 2014 highlights posts.

Finally, my best pic of the second half of the year, I personally think, is that of the Hen Harrier in Poole Harbour.

Sunday, 28 December 2014


Hen Harrier

The colour of the eye sexes this juvenile as a female.

This male was on a nearby heath.

Marsh Harrier

But what age is this male? The underwing pattern is very like that of an adult male, but is probably a first-adult male/2nd-calender year.

Compare with these males from Radipole Lake the other day.

adult male.

A first adult male/2nd-calender year.

Water Pipit


Yellow-legged Gull


And finally, a couple of adult Mediterranean Gull pics from the other day showing variation in winter head patterns.