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, 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. 

Saturday, 28 November 2015

My Take On Dorset's Second Paddyfield Warbler

In September this year, a Paddyfield Warbler seen in Dorset. This will be the second record for Dorset if accepted by BBRC. The bird was trapped and ringed, so presumably, might also have been photographed.

The bird was not only submitted to BBRC with the observer/s names withheld, but also the location of the bird was also withheld. Whilst the observer/s are within there rights to withhold their names, presumably to avoid backlash, I find it hard to understand why the site name has been withheld. Withholding the site name is disappointing, if at a later date, one wants to review certain records. If it was withheld because it would give away the names of the observer/s, then fair enough, but being a bit more precise, for example, saying in was seen in inland Dorset or coastal Dorset would be nice to know. If the site was private, or sensitive, the latter due to health & safety considerations, then why withhold anything, as nobody is gonna complain about that. If the information was withheld to stop birders visiting the site in increasing numbers, well the birds been and gone, so pretty pointless to do that, to be honest.

In the BBRC work in progress file it states the bird was there for 2 days. So, a suppressed rarity this autumn. Was it suppressed for a good reason? I hope that is the case and I'm sure it was. If it was, nobody is gonna have a problem with that. I'm sure we Dorset birders won't have long to wait for another Paddyfield Warbler.

Sunday, 22 November 2015


The BOU has now replaced the Taxonomic Sub-committee with PRATS, People's Rebellious Avian Taxonomic Society. It's designed to piss off the listing fraternity and also keeps those individuals, who are perplexed with the latest splits, happy too.

These are the latest taxonomic recommendations from PRATS that affect the British List.

Cackling Goose to be lumped with Canada Goose.
Black Duck to be lumped with Mallard.
Green-winged Teal to be lumped with Teal.
Black Scoter to be lumped with Common Scoter.
White-winged Scoter to be lumped with Velvet Scoter.
Pacific Diver to be lumped with Black-throated Diver.
Scopoli's Shearwater to be lumped with Cory's Shearwater, though Cape Verde Shearwater to remain split.
Yelkouan Shearwater to be lumped with Balearic Shearwater and to be called Mediterranean Shearwater.
Zino's Petrel to be lumped with Fea's Petrel and to be called Northern Soft-plumaged Petrel.
The forms formally known as Madeiran Storm Petrel are to be lumped as one species and known as Band-rumped Storm Petrel.
Macqueen's Bustard to be lumped with Houbara Bustard.
Semipalmated Plover to be lumped with Ringed Plover.
Hudsonian Whimbrel to be lumped with Whimbrel.
Wilson's Snipe to be lumped with Snipe.
Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitchers to be lumped and called American Dowitcher.
The "Southern" Skuas to be lumped with Great Skua.
American and Caspian Gulls to be lumped with Herring Gull.
Yellow-legged Gull to be lumped with Lesser Black-backed Gull.
Cabot's and Elegant Terns to be lumped with Sandwich Tern.
Water Pipit to be lumped with Rock Pipit.
Siberian Stonechat to be lumped with Stonechat.
Bicknell's Thrush to be lumped with Grey-cheeked Thrush.
Red- and Black-throated Thrushes to be lumped and called Dark-throated Thrush
Naumann's Thrush to be lumped with Dusky Thrush.
Western and Eastern Orphean Warblers to be lumped.
Asian and African Desert Warblers to be lumped.
Western and Eastern Bonelli's Warblers to be lumped.
Iberian Chiffchaff to be lumped with Chiffchaff.
Green Warbler to be lumped with Greenish Warbler, but Two-barred Warbler to be split from Greenish.
Collared Flycatcher to be lumped with Pied Flycatcher.
Short-toed Treecreeper to be lumped with Treecreeper.
Hooded Crow to be lumped with Carrion Crow.
Spanish Sparrow to be lumped from with House Sparrow.
Arctic and Common Redpolls to be lumped with Lesser Redpoll and be called Redpoll.
Parrot, Scottish and Two-barred Crossbills to be lumped with Crossbill.
Pine Bunting to be lumped with Yellowhammer.
Red- and Black-headed Buntings to be lumped and called Dark-headed Bunting. 

Excellent, so, it's birding made easy. Brilliant! No more worrying about those poxy sub-species, eh? Yippeeee!!!

It's just a fucking Herring Gull.

It's just a fucking Redpoll.

Monday, 16 November 2015

The Answer To The Mystery Photograph

© Chris Patrick/RNBWS

© Chris Patrick/RNBWS

It's an aberrant Reed Warbler. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, you're thinking "WHAT!!!"  Yeah, this bird is totally messed up, isn't it?

Friday, 13 November 2015

The State Of Dorset's Breeding Birds

Lost to the county as breeding birds.

Bittern - lost towards end of 19th century. With the nearby Somerset population doing well, there is hope that this species will return soon.

Pintail - Has only bred once in the county, in 1983.

Garganey - Since 1950 hasn't been a regular breeder and last bred for certain in 1986. Perhaps it's just a matter of getting the habitat right for this species.

Red Kite - Lost as a regular breeder by 1850. Reintroduced birds on the brink of recolonizing.

Hen Harrier - Became extinct some when in the 19th century. A pair possibly bred in 1922 though.

Montagu's Harrier - Last bred in 2004. A very sad loss. There is always hope that this spectacular species will return, if current conservation efforts in this country bear fruit.

Black Grouse - The last ones seen were around 1925. Seems they were hunted to extinction. One wonders if this species could be reintroduced to some of the southern heathlands.

Spotted Crake - Has always been a rare irregular breeder anyway. Last confirmed breeding was 1932. Create the habitat though and this species could colonize.

Corncrake - Had been lost as a regular breeder by around 1950.

Great Bustard - Last seen in 1888.

Stone Curlew - Last bred in 1998. With the increasing Wiltshire population, there is hope this species will return to the county.

Golden Plover - Allegedly bred prior to 1799. 

Roseate Tern -  Last bred in 2009. Has always been erratic in it's breeding attempts, but could conservation initiatives help this species to establish a regular breeding population locally. I think so. What a conservation success that would be.

Arctic Tern - Last bred in 1988. Has always been a rare and erratic breeder locally, being on the very edge of it's breeding range. A bird has recently attempted to hybridize with Common Tern in recent years. 

Rock Dove - If it even did occur in it's pure form, it was lost a very long time ago.

Long-eared Owl - Last recorded breeding in 2000, though possibly bred in 2001. This species has declined nationally, but it is a species that can be easily overlooked during the breeding season.

Hoopoe - There are a few 19th century nesting attempts, otherwise, last nesting attempt, though unsuccessful, was in 1983. Lack of suitable nest sites may limit this species attempt to fully colonize.

Wryneck - Lost as a regular breeder by 1950.

Yellow Wagtail - Last bred in 1992. It seems incredulous that the decline of this species has been allowed to happen and continue unchecked. The last pair that bred were incredibly Blue-headed Wagtails.

Whinchat - Last bred in 1991. Was always a scarce and sporadic breeder.

Savi's Warbler - Has only bred, or suspected to breed on a few occasions, the last attempt occurring in 1982.

Marsh Warbler - Last successful breeding took place in 1977.

Wood Warbler - The last possible breeding was in 2002. But the species possibly hung on till at least 2009. Truly heartbreaking to see the demise of this beautiful phylloscopus in Dorset. 

Pied Flycatcher - Was never a regular breeder. Last breeding attempt took place in 1996.

Willow Tit - Last recorded in 2008. Sadly, the rapid national decline continues. The only way back for this species is reintroduction to woodland that has been improved and managed specifically for this species. Such management would almost certainly benefit other declining species like Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

Golden Oriole - Was only ever a very occasional breeder and certainly bred a few times in the 19th century. It has possibly bred since, most notably in 1988.

Red-backed Shrike - The last breeding took place in 1968.

Chough - The last breeding record took place around 1890.

Serin - A very sporadic breeder, breeding for the first time in 1967. This was also the first British breeding record. The only other confirmed breeding record is from 1990. Possibly bred in 2009.

Hawfinch - Has always been scarce, though possibly overlooked/under recorded due to it's secretive nature. Last bred in 1998.

Cirl Bunting - The last proved breeding was in 1971. There is real hope that this species will recolonize in the not so distant future, with the Devon population continuing to increase.

On the brink.

Honey Buzzard - Current knowledge suggests it has a tenuous foothold in the county. It is probably overlooked though, so there is hope.

Marsh Harrier - Recently returned as a regular breeder after a 50 year absence, but numbers still small, but looking optimistic.

Goshawk - Is starting to recolonize and although numbers very small, is almost certainly overlooked. The prospects for this, presumably reintroduced, species look good. 

Teal - Has always been a scarce breeder. Habitat deterioration and possibly global warming could be responsible for declines locally.

Shoveler - Has always been just an occasional breeder. With wetland habitat improvements though, who knows.

Pochard - Has bred regularly in recent years at, for example, Lodmoor. Still, remains a rare breeding bird in Dorset, so no room for complacency.

Grey Partridge - On the verge of extinction. Unless the national picture improves, the outlook is bleak.

Quail - On the verge of extinction. Continued hunting abroad will ultimately be it's demise, sadly.

Ringed Plover - Without disturbance free areas, this species is extremely vulnerable and faces extinction if concerted efforts aren't made to create such places. The outlook looks bleak for this species if urgent action isn't taken soon. Just 1 pair bred in 2012, yet there is plenty of available habitat.

Lapwing - Though it has declined alarmingly, it would be good to think that this species fortunes could be improved in the same way as has happened for Stone Curlew in Wiltshire.

Snipe - The position of this species is critical and perhaps is suffering in the same way as Curlew (see below). Hopefully we haven't lost it yet.

Woodcock - This species is declining nationally, as well as locally. A thorough survey is needed to see the present state of play in the county.

Curlew - Although was never common, this species is very much on the brink. Along with the fact that it has obviously declined, possibly due to global warming, an availability of suitable and undisturbed habitat must also be an issue locally. 

Redshank - Waders aren't doing particularly well in Dorset, are they? With the right habitat management, I think for some species, the situation could so easily be reversed. Sadly, it all comes down to money, but also having the right people in place that understand the needs of these birds.

Kittiwake - Sadly, seems to be going down the same road as Puffin, a slow terminal decline. Just the one colony left in 2012 and no idea of numbers of pairs.

Little Tern - Concerted conservation efforts are improving the situation for this species, that was almost lost. It must be remembered though, that there is just the one colony, so it is extremely vulnerable.

Puffin - On the verge of extinction. Seems likely that this endangered species will be next to join the list of species lost to Dorset.

Turtle Dove - On the verge of extinction. In a race with Puffin to join the lost list. Unless they stop hunting this species abroad, then we won't only see it disappearing locally, but also nationally and depressingly, globally too.

Cuckoo - Has declined alarmingly. Conditions abroad probably puts it out of our hands.

Swift - If property developers are not forced by law to include potential nest sites for this species, then the future is bleak.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - This delightful and beautiful species is in serious trouble. If urgent action isn't taken, it is destined to follow the same fate as Willow Tit. We seem to have learned nothing from, for example, the extinction of the Large Blue butterfly in Britain. If we don't act now, we will lose this species nationally. We are well on the way to doing that. RSPB take note!!!

House Martin - As with Swift, the same applies here.

Dipper - Better management and water quality of sites would certainly benefit this species locally.

Nightingale - On the edge of it's range in Dorset, which does seem to be contracting.

Redstart - Was never common, but has declined, possibly due to range contraction, but also maybe to increased levels of disturbance and habitat deterioration.

Wheatear - It's decline in lowland Britain is well known. Very much on the verge of extinction locally.

Grasshopper Warbler - On the verge of extinction, if not, already so.

Spotted Flycatcher - Another delightful species that is very much in trouble locally.

Marsh Tit - This species, like Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, is in serious trouble and is in urgent need of surveying to produce a site register, that can be monitored in the next few years. Action needs to be taken now. RSPB take note!!!

Tree Sparrow - After loosing this species for several years, there is hope that it is becoming reestablished. It's not out of the woods yet though and could easily be lost again.

Redpoll - It may be we've already lost this species. Let's hope that's not the case. It is prone to good and bad years, but there is no escaping that it has declined locally. No reports in 2012.

Corn Bunting - Very much restricted to traditional sites. In need of surveying locally to see the precise picture today and to help monitor the population that is left. Birds like this can sometimes be neglected by conservation organisations.

Species Dorset has gained. Thought, after all the depressing reading above, I'd end on a positive note. 

Great Crested Grebe - First recorded breeding in 1932.

Little Egret - Has been breeding in the county since 1996.

Fulmar - Has been breeding in the county since 1952.

Avocet - First recorded breeding in 1999. Lack of suitable wetland habitat management, means that this species has yet to gain a foothold in the county. Learning from the likes of WWT Slimbridge would certainly help this species fortunes.

Little Ringed Plover - First recorded breeding in 1976. Habitat creation the key for this species.

Mediterranean Gull - First bred, though unsuccessfully, in 1977. Subsequently, this species has gone from strength to strength.

Lesser Black-backed Gull - First bred in 1944. Surprisingly, still only breeds in small numbers annually.

Yellow-legged Gull - First bred in 1995. Continues to breed, but remains the nations rarest breeding seabird, despite what the RSPB say, with no signs of an increase in the population. It's foothold in Britain is tenuous, to say the least.

Collared Dove - First reached the county in 1961. The rest, as they say, is history.

Bee-eater - Attemped, though unsuccessfully, to breed in 2006. There is every reason to believe that this species is in the throws of colonizing this country. What a species this would be to add to the county breeding avifauna.

Black Redstart - First bred in 1965 and has been sporadic, though increasingly ever since.

Cetti's Warbler - First confirmed breeding took place in 1977. Now well established in suitable habitat.

Firecrest - First bred in 1970. Though established in the county, it is very under recorded as a breeding bird in the county, in my opinion.

Bearded Reedling - Breeding was first confirmed in 1967. This delightful species has subsequently become firmly established in the right habitats. 

Siskin - First confirmed breeding record was in 1972. Now a common breeder in suitable forested areas.

To be honest, there's not much to be positive about. As they say in the school reports, much room for improvement. Sadly, with the government we have, the nations disengagement with nature and conservation organisations like the RSPB, with their fingers stuck firmly, well and truly, up their own complacent arses, things won't change in a hurry.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

More On That Mystery Photograph

What the fuck is it? For details of where the photo was taken, see

© Chris Patrick/RNBWS

© Chris Patrick/RNBWS

Come on peeps. By the way, the doughnut prize has expired.