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, 30 December 2015

My 2015 Highlights

New birds for me in 2015

Greater Yellowlegs at Titchfield Haven, Hampshire.

Hudsonian Godwit at Meare Heath, Shapwick, Somerset.

Harlequin Duck on the River Don, Aberdeenshire.

Hudsonian Whimbrel at Pagham Harbour, West Sussex. Completed the double whammy of Hudsonians.

Cretzschmar's Bunting on Bardsey Island, Gwynedd.

Olive-backed Pipit at Muckleburgh Hill, Norfolk. This delightfully confiding bird was my personal highlight of the year.

New taxa for me in 2015

"Eastern" Black-eared Wheatear at Acres Down, Hampshire. One of my personal highlights of the year. A total stunner.

A Dorset tick in 2015

Bonaparte's Gull at Radipole Lake.

Some of my other highlights of 2015

Surf Scoter

Black-winged Stilt

Red-rumped Swallow

King Eider

Tawny Pipit

Red-footed Falcon

White-winged Black Tern

Night Heron

Black Stork

Baird's Sandpiper

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Isabelline Shrike

Red-flanked Bluetail

Pallas's Warbler

Taxa of interest in 2015. Something that always floats my boat.

"Scandinavian" Rock Pipit. This spring beauty graced Ferrybridge in March.

"nivalis" Snow Bunting. This stunning male chose the unusual surroundings of Maiden Castle for it's short stay.

"Greenland" White-fronted Goose. This bird wintered in Dorset. About time this form was afforded full specific status.

"Continental" Coal Tit. One of the highlights of the year for me was the influx of this form into Dorset.

"Siberian" Chiffchaff

"Scandinavian" Herring Gull. Increasingly rare in Dorset. How many of the young ones get overlooked?

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Red-throated Diver And Other Stuff

Cracking views of this Red-throated Diver in Portland Harbour at Smallmouth this afternoon.

This Swallow was a surprise at The Nothe today.

Less of a surprise was this pair of Pale-bellied Brent Geese off The Nothe yesterday.

The Scandinavian Herring Gull is still showing well on the car park at Radipole Lake this weekend.

And finally, thought this 1st-cal year Lesser Black-backed Gull at Radipole Lake today was particularly smart.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Bird Forms Are Just Great, Aren't They?

Today, I found a Scandinavian Herring Gull at Radipole Lake. This is a rare bird locally these days, with maybe 1 or 2 per year. This individual immediately stood out, because it was in full juvenile plumage.

So, here's a first view. Note the juvenile plumage, but also the distinctive head shape, with the sloping forehead making the bill look really snouty.

Appear longer necked than local Herring Gulls.

Compare the head and bill profile with the Herring Gull above.

The head and bill profile looks Glaucous Gull like in my opinion.

Compared to the Herring Gulls below, note the extent and patterning of the pale marbling in the wing coverts. Also, note the structural differences, being longer in the body and heavier chested. The more elongated head also makes the eye look as though it's set further forward.

And now a couple of 1st-winter plumaged Herring Gulls below, for comparison. Scandinavian Herring Gulls moult later than our own, so it is not unusual to see them in juvenile plumage, even into January. There are still Herring Gulls locally with the odd retained juvenile rear scapulars, but the other features render them easily identifiable as normal Herring Gulls.

Locally, December and January is the peak time of occurrence for Scandinavian Herring Gulls, so, get looking at them Herring Gulls. Once you get onto one, they do have a distinctive look about them.

Last Monday, I went to see Siberian Chiffchaff that had taken up temporary residence at Portland Castle. 

A classic, in both plumage and call.

Note the faint buff wash to the throat, breast and fore flanks, lacking sulfur yellow streaking.

The Siberian Chiffchaff with a Common Chiffchaff. Note the more olive tones and yellowy undertail coverts of the Common Chiffchaff.