Monday, April 28, 2008

Weymouth Weekend

I went with Steve, D#2, and Steve's son to Weymouth for the weekend, arriving at 10am and heading straight to Lodmoor. I’d told Steve that Lodmoor never failed to produce some good sightings, but as we headed round it began to look like today might be the day to draw a blank. We had the first of many Cettis out in the open, a couple of Oystercatchers, some nice Sedge Warblers, but it was desperate stuff until Steve picked up a Whimbrel on the flashes at the sea-ward end of the central path. And then a Wheatear, then about ten more wheatears. They looked fantastic in the sunlight - any day with Wheatears on the list is a good day,.

An agitated Greenshank called loudly over the reserve, dropped in, and then continued on its way. A Whitethroat sang, and just as I was telling Steve it still a bit early for Common Terns here a couple of Common Terns dropped in. Then from the viewpoint a couple of egrets - with orange bills! We had fortuitously connected with a couple of the Cattle Egrets which have been round this area for most of the winter.

Well satisfied we headed to the exit, only to be met by an approaching birder who dispensed with the formalities and simply shouted “hoopoe” at us several times, and then finally “have you got the Hoopoe?” As if I might have one secreted somewhere on my person. By now birders were appearing like Starlings round a fat ball, and it became clear that a Hoopoe was showing round the other side of the reserve. We contemplated going, but we’re both still Hoopoe’d out after last year’s local bird, and decided that the Sum of Human Happiness would not be increased by us charging round the reserve, and the boys deserved a bit of fun time on the beach.

The rightness of the decision became apparent as we were soon sat atop the shingle of Chesil beach at Ferrybridge marvelling at the fantastic panorama before us in the baking sun. The boys were charging up and down the shingle bank, and bit by bit a few birds drifted by. Another couple of Whimbrel, c20 Common Scoter, a lone Brent Goose, and on the Fleet side, some Little Terns, Sandwich Terns, Ringed Plovers, and Dunlin.

Finally we headed down to Portland. It was quiet by local standards, but for us visitors from landlocked counties, Portland Bill is always a treat. Apart from yet more Wheatears and a couple of spanking Stonechats, we had local specialities such as Kittiwake, Gannet, Shag, Fulmar, and offshore a couple of Manx Shearwaters were cruising the waves. A flock of c40 Whimbrel went east followed shortly by a couple of Sandwich Terns, and that as it for the day. We took the boys off for a well-earner curry at the excellent Weymouth Tandoori.

Sunday was a different matter altogether. The bright sunshine of Saturday had gone, and by the time we got to Portland there was dark cloud around and a spectacular display of lightening and thunder off shore. There were Gannets close in, brilliant white against the heavy green sea - a fantastic sight! The locals were much less impressed as there was a dearth of seabirds moving, and D#2 was convinced we were all about to die from a direct lightening strike, so we were soon heading off to an open space between the beach huts by the obs where we joined a line of birders getting some crippling views of a male Serin, a first for me in the UK, and a first for Steve and the boys anywhere, feeding on the floor with some Linnets. Looking like a pale Twite that had mistakenly had its top half sprayed luminous lime green, it picked and fussed for a few minutes and then flew off. Serin, along with Ortolan Bunting and Melodious Warbler is a bird I'd always assumed I'd miss at Portland; the ringers and locals snatching occasional glimpses and occasional visitors like myself always too late to the party. To get stunning views like this, was a delightful surprise.

We took in some first rate views of the obs quarry Little Owl, and headed for Radipole to finish the weekend's birding. We got a fantastic display of commoner summer birds. C40 Swifts, good numbers of hirundines including Swallows and Sand Martins sitting on reeds opposite the Buddleia Loop viewpoint, and Cetti's and Reed warblers sat out in the open singing away (I assume that the Reed Warblers were so brazen as they have just arrived and are claiming territories; soon they will settle down to the serious business of raising young and go largely unseen through the reed beds).

We added Common Sandpiper and Long-tailed Tit to the list and I got a brief but sadly unrepeated view of a male Bearded Tit. We didn't connect with the pair of Garganey, but seeing as back home that's a common bird we weren't too disappointed. We stopped off for a couple of hours at the World's Biggest Tank Collection, then headed back finishing on a trip total of 81 (including some seen only from the car on the journey).

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