Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Durlston Deja Vue

Durlston. I've been here before, and I managed to persuade D#2 that it would be a great idea to stop off here again. 

This time I managed to sprint round before the rain came down snapping the key species. First off the Early Spider Orchids. I had forgotten how small they are (we've done this detour to see those?) and also how like Spiders they are. The numbers had improved since last time. 

Early Purple Orchids were everywhere, but particularly on the lower slopes. they were approaching their peak but not quite there. 

But of the third target species Green-Winged Orchid there was no sign. I made up for this by photographing some of the dumpier more solid looking Early Purples. 

and as you will have noticed, this is in fact a Green-Winged Orchid. Those big wings, whilst not being at all green, are fairly diagnostic.

The strange thing is this mistake is exactly what happened last time I was here. Clearly a lesson not learned.

Monday, April 24, 2023

On Chesil Beach

Sat high on the shingle. The sweep of the Jurassic coast stretching out all the way to East Devon , bookended on my left by the majestic cliffs of the Isle of Portland. Is there a better place to be? Back to where this blog started. 

My relationship with Weymouth is based round this being Mrs D's ancestral home. We were regular here for a while, then we weren't, and now I'm back for just one weekend only. Hence Saturday evening and I'm parked at Ferrybridge.

Wheatears all over the vegetation, Sandwich Tern, Bar Tailed Godwit, then that walk up the Chesil beach shingle ridge. Two steps up two steps down. I'd forgotten how hard that was. There was a birder on a seat with a scope so I went and imposed myself on him. More Sandwich Terns, Gannets, Guillemot. Strangely after ten minutes of interrogation about local stuff the other birder left and me and my bins were left by ourselves ... some dark geese came in from the west which local social media later informed me were Brent Geese, but in front was a flock of six birds slowly making their way east. Could have been skuas ... I'll never know. A Whimbrel flew past and then that was it.

Sunday morning I managed to grab a couple of hours at Portland. It was pretty quiet by recent standards, but back on the top I found several years of patch watching had slowed down my approach to birding, taking time to watch fields for movement, and I was pretty pleased with my haul of several Wheatears, female Redstart, Sedge Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, and a handful of Whitethroats and Blackcaps as well as Willow Warblers in every bush. Little Owl in its usual place and a Peregrine over completed the set. 

Great to be back, and fingers crossed there might be more such trips. But over too soon and D#2 and I were heading back to Hertfordshire with just one more location on our itinerary.

My Little Patch of Joy

I've had my foot off the pedal this year, and that includes the local patch. Just a few visits with Barn Owl and Lesser Redpoll the highlights. But with spring migration in full flow I thought it time to get out and walk the well worn path once again.

The walk was predictably quiet and I got to the limit with not much to show. I looked up the rough track towards the local B road and had my usual 'Why isn't there a Wheatear on this track?' thought when I noticed up at the far end a promising blob on an old concrete slab, and a few moments later I was a watching a male Wheatear from a comfortable distance. It's a common enough bird elsewhere in spring (see next post) but is a jewel of a bird in my landlocked area and I spent a happy half hour watching it flick around the patch.

I enjoyed it so much I went back next evening. The Wheatear had moved on, but the field was being ploughed and a scan showed c20 Lesser Black-Backed Gulls, no less then 5 Buzzards sat in the field and plenty of corvids. Then on the scan back two gulls flew in with solid black heads and vivid red legs and beaks and whahay 2 Mediterranean Gulls were flying around the field! One a full adult and one a near-adult with a couple of spots on the wing tips. I've had them on the patch twice before but not prolonged views in sunshine like this! A fantastic half hour was spent on this unexpected delight until they drifted high and north. A Treecreeper, Water Vole and Raven completed a spectacular patch list.

The always enjoyable and wise Steve Gale blogged about his local patch with the title Comparison is the Thief of Joy and he is as so often absolutely correct. The ability to enjoy what is in front of you and not think about what its in front of some other birder somewhere else is an essential mental capability for any inland local patch watcher. These two visits delivered the best of local patch watching.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Windy day in the Brecks

We headed to the Brecks in cloudy weather conscious of incoming wind and rain in the afternoon. No time for hanging around.

First stop Lakenheath. The water levels were very high following heavy and persistent rain. I assume that in these conditions muddy margins are found on puddles and boggy areas of the surrounding farmland so no surprise not to see any Garganey and very few waders; we did pick up a loan Avocet, and a flock of c30 Sand Martins with a couple of House Martins and a Swallow

At the Joist Fen lookout we connected with a Bittern in-flight and I caught a tantalising glimpse of a languid flick of enormous wings disappearing in the distance - surely my fourth Common Crane sighting of the year. But the Marsh Harriers were putting on a display with at least four males and as many females patrolling the reserve. 

With the sun out we headed for Lynford. We did our usual walk round the tall pines, but the wind was making finding Firecrests difficult until Mike picked one up in a pine. It eventually gave great views at head height in a holly bush, just a stunning bird. We are lucky to have reasonable numbers at this 'local' site. 

At the beginning of the year we had resolved in a half-hearted way to spend less time on the usual spots and try some unexplored areas. In that spirit we headed north from the car park and found some very promising open areas. We got Stonechat, Willow Warbler singing in plain sight in a tree, the first Blackcap of the year for me, and a single Woodlark.  A thrill to be searching through a new area for us for birds with each sighting a notable event. We will be back.

Finishing up at Weeting. The weather was closing in now with a lone Stone Curlew on show looking miserable as a burst of rains and hail came horizontally across the field. We finished at the feeding station with a lone Brambling. And not just any Brambling; this was a male in spring plumage. The head and shoulders a solid black, and the rest of the plumage vibrant orange with deep brown and black markings. I've seen hundreds of Brambling and never seen one like this. The kind of bird you expect in North America or Africa. just fantastic.

I keep reminding myself I'm a birdwatcher because I like watching birds. So wherever I am, just watch what is in front of me and enjoy. On days like today, that philosophy worked out fantastically well.

Rarity chasing in Cambridgeshire part 2.

Last post left you on the edge of your seats as your intrepid birders ticked off the first of three potential rarities and headed off in sea...