Chauffeur for D#2 who was spending a day in Hampshire, so some free time round Poole Harbour. First stop Lytchett Bay (20 Oct). I've screwed up the tides (again!) and the water is lapping at the bay edge as I join two regulars. "Are you here for the Whooper?" Well no but I'll take it. "Its only the second record of Whooper Swan for the harbour". I tactlessly mention that round where I live there are fields full of them in winter. But look at this deer! There are a group of Sika Deer including a male with a fine set of antlers. The locals' response indicates this is equivalent to seeing a squirrel for them, and fewer deer would be a good thing.
On to Durlston. Lots of Chiffchaffs, Stonechats, Meadow Pipits, Swallows, nothing else. Then on to Arne, rapidly becoming a favourite reserve. There's movement going on, and a brief Lesser Redpoll amongst some Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests. Three Fieldfares in a tree, and back in the car park a Firecrest doing its thing in a holly bush. A really nice way to end the day.
A couple of weeks later (Sunday 13th Nov) and I'm back again. I go to Arne but it is packed with groups of folks to see where Autumnwatch was filmed. Nothing wrong with lots of people out enjoying the countryside, but Mr Grumpy decided this was an opportune moment to head for Hartland Moor and the Avocet hide at Middlebere Farm.
Wow, what a place Hartland Moor is, particularly on a crisp autumn afternoon. A vision of purple and orange, and quite wild. I got to the Avocet hide, and there is just one other person. I was there from 2pm to 4pm during which time a few couples and individuals came by, but there was always seating space.
The hide looks over the Wareham channel to Arne reserve, and with the sun behind its a fantastic view. for a while there isn't much to see, so I admire the view. At 3pm a ringtail Hen Harrier appeared over the far bank, it quartered a marsh, then headed over the channel towards us, and kept coming until it flew across the front of the hide at a distance of about 10 yards. Then a flurry of birds from behind us, Lapwings, Brents, a few Black Tailed Godwits, and a female Merlin gliding over and heading off towards Wareham. Just as we were basking in the glow of these raptors a Swan flew in and sat on the mud. A Whooper. The other occupants were very excited. Only the third record for the harbour. I tactlessly mention that round where I live there are fields full of them in winter. An Avocet comes out of a gully to admire the new arrival.
at 4pm its a bit quiet, the sun is setting, just a few Starlings flying into the reeds to roost so I think its time to go. But a quick scan shows 3 female Goosander flying over, and the log book says male Merlin has been seen in the adjacent hedge so I give it a scan and there it is. A great view, in fact, precisely this view.
I head off back down the path to the car. Another Ringtail slips by, then a Barn Owl appears briefly, and finally three doe Sika Deer stop just forty yards away and look me up and down for a while before casually wandering off.
What a place. Possibly one of the best sites in England for wildlife. If you look through this blog from Aidan Brown you will see many fantastic examples of photos and wildlife wisdom that showcase the wildlife of this corner of England much better than my account here.