10th – 18th November – last week’s birding.   Leave a comment

I haven’t posted an update for sometime, because up until yesterday there wasn’t too much to report.

Fairly poor weather and a lack of birds over the period 10th – 14th kept me mainly at home where I spent a lot of time researching for planned foreign trips in 2013 and preparing for a talk on the 14th (see separate post).

A few days ago I headed down to Middlebere in the hope of seeing a reported Ruddy Shelduck, which appeared to have gone, but I did get great views of a number of waders and a Marsh Harrier hunting over the creek. It was clearly chasing a Teal, which repeatedly dived to avoid the harrier and was probably saved by the two crows that constantly harried the Harrier until it departed. As Teal are surface feeding or dabbling ducks as opposed to diving ducks like Pochard or Mergansers, then this is the first time I have seen a Teal dive.

On the 15th Mick, Simon and I attempted ringing at Durlston. The season is largely over with most migrants having left, but we were pleasantly surprised to catch 35 new birds plus quite a few retraps. Best of these were ten Redwings, most of which appeared in the nets after a Sparrowhawk flushed a roosting flock at dawn. There were many Fieldfares present as well but they avoided us. Another Firecrest and a few Goldcrests provided variety and two Blackcaps showed that a few autumn migrants are on the move.

Flushed with success  we arrang ed to reconvene the following day. As I left home at 0600 there was a slight drizzle, phoning Mick confirmed that the situation was the same in Swanage but we decided to give it a go. On arrival at Durlston the drizzle had turned to rain and the wind, so after a cup of coffee with Simon in the center we abandoned the attempt.

Sunday the 18th was an excellent day, sunny and still with hardly a cloud in the sky. The day started with a ringing trip to Durlston. Seven of us turned up so we decided to do both the garden and goat plots. I took Kevin and Sean to the goat plots where we ringed 13 birds including a few Goldfinches, Goldcrests and two Firecrests, whilst those in the garden ringed two Redwing, a Sparrowhawk and various other bits and bobs.

Few birds look better in the hand than a Firecrest. Photo by Kevin Lane

I had arranged to be picked up mid morning by Margaret and Anita, then we drove to Worth Matravers were we walked along the top of the Chapman’s Pool valley to St Aldhelm’s Head and on to Winspit.

Introducing Anita to the delights of the Dorset countryside

On such a clear day we could see St Catherine’s Point to the east and Portland Bill to the west (which are 50 miles apart). In spite of making regular trips to the gym I am feeling my age and the ascent of the steps up to the coastguard lookout at St Aldhelm’s, which I once could do in one go, proved exhausting.

The view westwards from above Chapman’s Pool to Houns Tout.

It’s a steep drop down from Emmett’s Hill, but an even steeper climb up to St Aldhelm’s Head.

St Aldehem’s Head cast a deep shadow to the north-west.


I had a lovely surprise as we passed to coastguard lookout, my former colleague Des Halliday, who was the head of the Virology department until 2004 is now doing volunteer work at the coastguard lookout and was on duty today. We stopped to have a chat to him and it was great to catch up after all this time.

The coastguard lookout.

Margaret and Anita with Durlston Head in the background.

Moving on eastwards I checked my phone and found that a Dusky Warbler had been seen in the Winspit valley. This was most fortuitous as this Siberian species had been seen off and on at Portland during the last few days but as I was busy with other things I hadn’t gone. On arrival we found the bird was easy to hear ‘tacking’ in the dense cover but a sod to see. Eventually I got a few brief views, which added to the diagnostic call was sufficient for my year list.

Where the Winspit valley meets the sea there are a series of caves left over from quarrying. Much of this area is now used by rock climbers.

View from inside the cave

The fields by Winspit were covered with cobwebs which glistened in the low afternoon sun.

If only we had got views like this! Dusky Warbler photographed on its wintering grounds in Malaysia. Photo from the internet.

Margaret and Anita had headed on back to the car and we reconvened at the Square and Compass, a wonderful little pub that has resisted all attempts to modernise it turn it into yet another ‘bar and grill’.

We came home to find Amber watching films on our PC and she stayed on for dinner. Janis and Kara had been all the way to Bradford for a taekwondo competition and later we heard that Kara got a Gold Medal in her weight class. More about that when I get to see her later in the week.

Posted November 19, 2012 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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