Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Dorset and Hampshire! Yellowlegs steals the show!


It was while preparing to head home to Dudley that I received a message from Mike W, saying that he was going down south tomorrow, and wondered if I wanted to join him in a long haul trawl across multiple sites!

Needless to say, it didn't take much convincing, and my plans about going home were quickly changed and I stayed over in Stourport for another night.

After an early pickup, it was an uneventful drive down to our first port of call, that 8 mile long peninsular that is Portland. 
As we drove through Chesil Cove, we quickly spied a Sandwich Tern as it flew across the 'Fleet' right next to the road! Certainly a good omen considering we hadn't even reached our destination yet!

Once we had reached the famous red and white striped lighthouse, we were informed that we had missed a 'fall' day, and there was little about landbird wise, so we headed over to the sea to look for moving seabirds!

I was quickly struck by how easy the seawatchers have it at Portland, as everything was passing close offshore, rather that the distant flapping dots I am used to! Needless to say, it made looking far easier, and many times it was much easier to just use my bins. A few small parties of Sandwich Tern passed, as did larger numbers of Common Scoter and Kittiwake. However, there were many more birds to look at, a couple of Puffin's were flying around, and one sat on the water briefly just off the bill among large numbers of both the two common Auks. 2 Red Throated Diver were moving close inshore to the  west of the bill also and a single Shelduck moved east. 2 early Whimbrel flew past, giving great views as they moved low east.
Large numbers of Hirundines were moving 'in off', which was stunning to see, some coming very low over our heads as they rose over the cliff.
What was more surprising however, was the 2 raptors which flew 'in off'. While watching Sandwich Terns passing, I picked up a small raptor low over the water flying directly towards us, and it was motoring it!

Very quickly, it was adjacent to us over the sea to the west, and that small brown raptor revealed itself to be a stunning female MERLIN!
Who could believe that! A female Merlin 'in off' the English channel!
Migration is amazing!

But that was not all!
Soon after I picked up another small raptor, just one more distant, and higher up in the sky, but still slowly making its way 'in off' from the south. With the sun shining, I could see glowing red 'trousers' on the bird, it was a HOBBY!
How amazing is that! Two migrant raptors, both arriving off the sea following a flight across the channel! 

Seeing so many bird arriving on our shores for the first time this year was simply stunning, and it is really one of the reasons why I know birding is such an amazing hobby (excuse the pun), what an awesome experience!

We then had a quick wonder around some suitable looking habitat on the Bill, but, as we had been told earlier, failed to find anything spectacular, a couple of Wheatear, a Stonechat and one each of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler.

With half the morning gone, it was time to move onwards to Arne RSPB. We duly asked one of the volunteers about where to go to find Dartford Warbler, and she was very obliging and told us where we had a decent chance.
Sadly, following a couple of hours slog around the site, I was left very underwhelmed. The area we had been guided to seemed completely the wrong habitat for Dartfords, with very little gorse, and there was very little birdwise to keep us occupied. Obviously the cold and severe winter had had a profound impact on the Dartford population at the site, seemingly to the point where there are non!

It wasn't a hard decision to start heading back to the car, and it was while doing so that a male Stonechat perched on an area of Gorse. Knowing of a habitual trait of Dartford Warbler to follow Stonechats, we moved our position in a last ditch attempt to look for our target. A short while after, and a small, dark bird flitted up in the shadows of the lower branches of a bare Gorse bush. A little bit distant, I pointed my scope, and that dark shape morphed into a stunning long tailed female DARTFORD WARBLER!
How about that for luck!

As quickly as it appeared however, it dropped back down into the low gorse, but we both left happy.

Now we were moving further east still, crossing the county boundary to do some twitching. A Lesser Yellowlegs  has wintered at a small country park right on the coast at Lepe country park.
With the satnav plugged in, we got to our location easily, and having parked at the end of the car park, we quickly dodged our way down the path to the marshy pools, avoiding the numerous beach go'ers, dog walkers and French students!
We scanned the first pool, which looked an awesome bit of habitat, and soon after, the bright yellow legs of a  LESSER YELLOWLEGS could be seen through an area of Tussocks! Slowly, the bird made its way from its roosting area out into open water, where we had great views of this stunning transatlantic wader!

Coming into summer plumage, the mix of pale silvery grey head, neck and upperparts contrasted with white and black flecking, much better than some streaky juvenile! A real stunner!


As well as 'The Yank', this pool, held a single Ringed Plover, 6 Turnstone and many Redshanks.

Having had our fix of this stunning yellow legged 'beaut', it was time to move onwards to our last location of the day, Keyhaven Marshes, where another Yank wader had been wintering, but had been a lot more elusive.

A few (Islandica) Black-tailed Godwits were feeding and showing well in the small harbour, as were numerous Redshank, Turnstone and 3 Dark Bellied Brent Goose, a good start considering we had only walked a short distance from the car!

The pools were much more lively, the first of which we were treated to a stunning partial summer plumaged SPOTTED REDSHANK fly in and start feeding towards the back of the pool. Having birded past many Redshank, we failed to find much else of interested on this pool, but upon reaching the 2nd lagoon it was obvious more birds were on here. Nothing was immediately obvious on the pool, so while scanning the estuary, a small Tern appeared distantly, and on getting the scope onto the bird, it revealed itself to be a rather smart Little Tern!
A few small parties of Mediterranean Gull flew over east, all of them rather stonking adults, all glowing in the evening sunshine and their obvious white wingtips standing out a mile, making them look akin to an Egret in flight.
A single Little Ringed Plover was running around on the island, and it was while looking over this, a small wader scurried out from behind some tussocks of grass. Obviously much smaller than the LRP, it was obvious we were watching a Stint, and a scope view revealed my 3rd LITTLE STINT of the year

The wind had picked up a huge amount by this time (hence the wind noise), and with the sun starting to drop, it was time to head back to the car,but a scan across the saltmarsh revealed a few Ringed Plover among larger numbers of Dunlin.

 While walking past the 1st lagoon again, the Spotted Redshank had moved much closer, and we had great views of it as it fed fairly close into the track!

With 110 species logged for the day between us, we both left very happy having had a great days birding.

However, one last surprise came as a Woodcock flew over the car in semi-darkness as we neared Oxford! A bird I was not expecting to find for the day!
How about that, 111 for the day!

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