Saturday, 28 December 2013

Mega rare, mega views....

Along with what seemed like the rest of the birding world, I took the pilgrimage down to Portland harbour for the Brunnich's guillemot. First twitchable mainland bird ever and a major blocker for many. This is similar to our common guillemot but normally lives in the Arctic. Diagnostic features are a larger and bulkier body with a white "gape".
An early start got me to the harbour by about 7.45, and there were already well over a hundred on site! The bird had been seen in the marina, so a nice sheltered spot. Viewing was along the path by the side of the jetty. As I arrived the bird was just disappearing around the corned and I didn't get onto it on time. A very anxious 30 minutes passed as the bird was not seen. Gradually the crowd spread out covering most parts of the marina. A few false alarms, mainly a razorbill and a supporting cast of great  northern divers kept us on our toes.
Finally, there it was. It was fishing and diving actively, giving everyone the chase around. It was quite amusing really. The crowd was spread out over I would guess 200 yards or more. It would appear, stay up for about 15 seconds then dive. The crowd would gather, wait for two minutes, and then the bird would reappear 50 yards away. Repeat over the next hour!!!!
Most of the time it was quite close in, but never on the surface for long. As a bloke next to me said "it's rendering a quarter of a million pounds of 'scopes redundant" which basically was true!!!
I took a lot of photos, most of which were of a birds arse disappearing under the waves but a few were ok.

Amazingly, as well as this, there was winter-plumaged black guillemot in the harbour as well, which I had already got in Scotland, but was a first in England for me.
Not satisfied with this I then went off down the coast to West Bexington where a glaucous gull had been reported on the beach. This needed about a 10 minute yomp along soft shingle. Another two birders had it about a quarter mile away. It stood out, very larege and very white. No signs of black or grey on the body. We then lucked out. Saving us a further yomp some dog walkers flushed it and it flew straight over our heads and settled on the mere.
One lifer and two year-ticks, so not a bad end to the year!! 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Well that was unexpected....

End of my first week back at work (god, commuting, aaaaaggggghhhhhh) and I was looking forward to getting some fresh air. Saturday morning so as usual down Maple Lodge for the work party. Weather was a bit dull but not too cold for December. got down to the reserve about 7.30ish as it was getting light for a quick look around. Very quiet. Few winter thrushes around, mainly redwings I think, a family group of goldcrests, 2 kingfishers on Clubhouse lake, otherwise not a lot beyond the usual.
Main tasks for the morning was the nest box survey - checking the boxes for signs of nesting, clearing them out, repairing damaged ones etc. Generally we had a very bad year, I think. Only two boxes had obvious signs of young - eggs, feathers etc. A lot had nest material in, but nothing else. I suppose we cant really say whether that was a failed nest or just a very tidy but successful one!!!
Anyway, unexpected 1. occurred when we were near Teal Hide. A small woodpecker flew overhead and landed in the top of a tree about 50 yards away. It immediately looked different to a great spot and I got Derek and Colin, who were with us, onto it. Luckily Colin had bins with him (mine were on the tractor some yards away) and he lent me them and I could see it was a lesser spotted woodpecker. These are much smaller than the great spots, being between a small starling and sparrows in size. They are also really uncommon now, and even when about hard to spot. The leaves off the trees helped! I had a year tick for this, but it was a heard only and only a probable at that so nice to convert to a full-blown definite!!!
In the afternoon I couldn't go out birding as we were getting our Xmas tree and then doing a bit of shopping. I did have one giant stroke of luck though. For the past week a Cackling Goose has been in the valley, around Maple Lodge. These are also known as lesser Canada geese, and are similar to our common Canada geese but are MUCH smaller, almost duck sized. I did have quick look for it on Lynsters Lake but nothing doing. In the afternoon though, with Judith driving the car we just got to the roundabout by Maple Cross when I saw 4 birds flying low over the road. Three of them were Canada geese, the other was TINY. Goose shaped but a miniature version - the cackling goose. In flight it looked no more half the size of the others it was with. Judith confirmed the sighting, even though she was driving and swerving slightly!!! A great stroke of luck, these geese have only recently been split as a full species and this being a full life tick.
Just goes to show you should never stop looking.