23rd to 25th January – Dorset birding   Leave a comment

Getting a big year list isn’t just about chasing rarities, you must also make sure that you see the regular but scarce species as well. I knew that I would bump into all three of this afternoons targets sometime in the year, but there was no harm in getting them out-of-the-way in January just in case.

I had heard that the Snow Bunting that is wintering on the shingle bank at Hengistbury Head could be seen from Mudeford Quay on the other side of the entrance to Christchurch Harbour. This would save the long hike out from Wick and more importantly save me time, however an hour spent scanning the shingle around the ‘Black House’ drew a blank.

I called in at Argyll Road on the way back to look for a Spotted Redshank, but the tide had dropped and all the waders had moved out of sight. This species is normally a regular winter visitor in small numbers to Holes and Lytchett Bay but this year all the birds seem to remaining on Brownsea lagoon which is closed for the winter (I failed to pick any up on the lagoon from the New Year bird boat due to the atrocious weather).

I then headed up to a site near Hurn airport in the hope for a Merlin. I found the road which led to an industrial estate just before 1600, but hadn’t realised that you have to cross a narrow causeway with room for a single line of traffic. All the factories were coming out and the road was hugely congested. Eventually I found a place to park and watched the area until dusk. I was just about to declare the day a triple dip when a shadowy shape shot across the end of the runway, typical Merlin behaviour. Not the best of views but I fully expect to come across more in the autumn.

The Black House on Hengistbury Head seen from Mudeford Quay

The view from Mudeford Quay towards the Isle of Wight

Bad weather kept me at home on Tuesday but in the afternoon I did a bit of local birding around Holes Bay where eventually I caught up with Spotted Redshank and later went to Holton Lee, the private estate on the south side of Lytchett Bay in the hope that a Woodcock would emerge at dusk or I would see Marsh Harriers coming in to roost but had no luck with either.

As Margaret was at choir on Tuesday evening I visited my friend, part-time birder and ex colleauge Tim Kellaway and chatted to him about the lab, music and birds.

Tim and his son Simon.

On Wednesday the 25th I decided to have another go for the Snow Bunting. I had expected to see many in Norfolk, but they were yet another species that we missed due to car troubles. I hope to see a few on their Cairngorm breeding grounds this summer, but bad weather could easily thwart the attempt.

I walked out to the far end of the shingle spit at Hengistbury but there was no sign of the bunting, others had seen it and I concluded that it must be elsewhere on the peninsula when some guy told me of a bird with a lot of white in the wing that he had been unable to identify. I headed for that spot only to find that it had flown back to where I was in the first place! I eventually got good if fairly brief views. I later headed back to Poole and had lunch with Margaret.

I didn’t get any photos of the bunting so I have included a shot of a very tame bird that I saw in Weymouth last autumn. Photos of the Hengistbury bird can be found on the CHOG website at www.chog.org.uk/Pages/sightings.htm under the 17th or 22nd of January.


Snow Bunting photgraphed in Weymouth last autumn.

Posted January 28, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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