11th – 13th April, Portland, Radipole, Durlston and Lytchett Bay.   Leave a comment

On the 11th I returned to Portland. With less wind there were fewer seabirds, I saw a number of Manx Shearwaters from the Observatory patio, along with a few Scoters. There was a good number of birds ringed, mainly Willow Warblers (I usually don’t get involved in the ringing at Portland as many ringers take holidays there specifically to ring and I wouldn’t want to get in their way).

This is the view from the Bird Observatory patio. Most seabirds pass in the tidal race, the area of white water in the mid distance.

The most interesting bird as far as I was concerned was a ‘Greenland’ Wheatear  in the hand. This larger and brighter subspecies of Northern Wheatear breeds in Greenland and eastern Canada but like all other Wheatears it winters in Africa. This bird was trapped along with a nominate Wheatear and it was great to see a side-by-side size comparison in the hand, something I haven’t been able to do before.

The larger and brighter Greenland race of Northern Wheatear, in less than a week it could be in Arctic Canada.

Northern Wheatears have an almost circumpolar distribution; birds have spread into Alaska and western Canada from Asia and eastern Canada from Greenland.  It had long been thought that Northern Wheatears that breed in the New World winter in Africa (as well as the entire Old World population, but proof has only recently been available through GPS tagging and stable isotope analysis. The journey from Alaska is about 15,000 km, that from eastern Canada is about 8,000 km but most of it is over the Atlantic. More details can be found in the most recent edition of Birding World.

On the way home I had just got to Dorchester when I received information that there was a Black-winged Stilt at Radipole, I quickly turned round and headed back.  After receiving a worrying text that it had just flown off, I arrived at North Hide to find it had returned and I was giving good views, if not good photos.  This species is a regular but rare overshoot to the UK in early spring. I have seen nine individuals in the UK (one that stayed for years in Norfolk was seen many times) but this was only the second I have seen in Dorset, the last being in 1985.

The view from the north hide at Radipole. The Stilt spent most of its time behind the bush at the back left of the picture.

Record shot of the Black-winged Stilt. Far better photos exist on the Dorset Bird Club web site.

A heavy shower was brewing and these Mute Swans flew directly towards us with the ominous sky as a back drop.

The following day I did some ringing at Durlston. Four of us had a productive morning, with 72 birds ringed. This is probably our best ever total for a spring session. We are seeing plenty of Willow Warblers moving through but other species are conspicuous in their absence. Hirundines (swallows and martins) have hardly put in an appearance at all. Up to the 12th I had seen less than ten, however there was a small movement today and I even got to see my first House Martin of the year.  We also heard a Cuckoo and a Grasshopper Warbler nearby, but it was surprising that we heard anything at all given the unholy din that emanated from people training their dogs just the other side of the garden wall. When we took the nets down I nearly stepped on an Adder but it slithered off into the undergrowth before I could get a photo.

Peter Williams from Worth Matravers had an even closer encounter with an Adder, whilst gardening this Adder bit him on the hand. This is of course our only poisonous snake and he spent much of the Easter weekend in A&E.
Photo by Peter Williams.

In the evening I paid another visit to Lytchett Bay as the Cattle Egret had been seen again. I think I must have arrived too late as all the Little Egrets had gone to roost, presumably taking the Cattle Egret with them.

Late evening at Lytchett Bay

Much of the 13th was taken up with various tasks but another late afternoon visit proved third time lucky and the Cattle Egret showed well. I also heard my first Reed Warbler of 2012.

Cattle Egrets are becoming much commoner, this is my third bird of 2012.

Another bird that has increased greatly in numbers is the Mediterranean Gull, now breeding in moderate numbers in Poole Harbour, their loud mewing could be heard all the time this evening.

Posted April 13, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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