16th – 20th April – Dorset birding and the infamous PC World drain.   Leave a comment

Breaking off from the Israel saga for the time being to bring my British birding/ringing up to date. Since my return last Sunday I have just made one visit to Portland, Radipole and Swineham and a few to Lytchett Bay.

At Portland I was in the wrong place all morning whenever the skuas went past but I did see a couple of Arctic Terns and a number of common spring migrants, at Radipole I connected with one of the Garganey that have been there recently. I visited Swineham near Wareham because I ended up running Amber to school after she missed the bus. It was a cold and very windy day and little was to be seen except for a substantial gathering of Swallows and Martins over the lake.

My visits to Lytchett were mainly to try and catch up with a Red-throated Diver that has been there for several days. Only the second record of this species in the Bay, I eventually caught up with it on the 20th, not in the Bay itself but just outside by Rockley Sands Sailing Club. It clearly swims in and out of the Bay under the railway bridge.

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An evening visit to Lytchett Bay. Although it had only been seen a few minutes earlier by Shaun, the Red-throated Diver was nowhere to be seen.

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I finally saw it the following day just outside the Bay. – Winter plumaged Red-throated Diver (photo from the internet)

By far the most exciting birding of the week occurred on the 19th. Shaun and I were planning to ring at Durlston, thinking it was going to be too windy we changed our mind. Mick Cook who lives near Durlston had a go, but ringed just a single Blackcap in three hours! Shaun and I, now joined by Paul Morton set up at PC World drain, our inter Chiffchaff site. This site is well named, it is the unpleasant, somewhat odorous outflow from Poole sewage works that runs from the Broadstone relief road to Holes Bay behind PC World store.

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The unpleasant, but aptly named PC World drain

This site is bordered by a strip of scrub sandwiched in-between the Upton by-pass and the Fleets Corner retail park, has earned a reputation as a good place to see Chiffchaffs in winter. Recently the occurrence of one or  more ‘Siberian’ Chiffchaffs in winter has brought the place to wider recognition. In 2009 we obtained permission to ring there. Our idea was to examine the extent and site fidelity of wintering Chiffchaffs and we have succeeded in proving the latter twice. we continued the wintering Chiff study into late March this year when we caught a stunning 68 Chiffs. It was now clear that Chiffs used this strip of green as migration corridor as well as a wintering site. Further observations in April showed that Willow Warblers were also using the site but nothing could prepare us for the numbers seen on the 19th.

We ringed a total of 37 Willows, 7 Chiffs, 19 Blackcaps, 8 Common Whitethroats with single Goldcrest, Garden, Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers plus a small number of resident species, 81 birds altogether.

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Catching 8 Whitethroats was certainly a surprise

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… and this Garden Warbler was one of the first to be ringed (or even seen) in Dorset this spring ….

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… we never ring the elusive Grasshopper Warbler in spring, most years we don’t see or hear any around Poole until return migration in August.

But the real surprise occurred about 1030. Shaun had now left for work, Paul and I were discussing what birds we could encounter there in the future. I was trying to curb his enthusiasm in expecting Nightingale or other scarce migrants when he said Subalpine Warbler. From the tone of his voice I could tell it wasn’t a prediction but a reality. I got onto the bird as it flew right and though I’d lost it but it came back and perched up for a couple of seconds. Fantastic! This is the first record of this sub-rarity for the Poole Harbour area although I have seen three previously in Dorset. A small crowd soon gathered, some having rushed from work (indeed one couple left some 40 business associates to have a ‘coffee break’ whilst they twitched it), we remained until about 1500 and some stayed even longer but unfortunately it was never seen again.

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Male Subalpine Warbler. Photo from the Internet.

Why this small area should be so full of migrants when Portland, Durston and other migrant hotspots had next to nothing is a mystery. In spite of all the theories, the sheer unpredictability of birding is what makes it such a fascination hobby. Shaun, Kevin and I had another go at ‘the drain’ on the 20th but all the birds had moved on and we only ringed four Blackcaps and a Whitethroat.

Posted April 20, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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