Saturday, 5 October 2013

Four Go Mad on Brownsea

I did a stress management course at work last week which, in an award winning statement of the bleeding obvious, advised anyone suffering stress to 'remove themselves from the source of the stress'. As the source of stress is generally work, taking this advice to heart I booked Friday off and went to Brownsea Island instead. Here, the only thing likely to cause stress is a rarity turning up on the mainland.
This Guillemot was just off the Quay on Brownsea
After a bit of cajoling I was joined on the trip by my wife, Claire - a rare day out for me and the fragrant one sans les enfants - and by fellow stress-dodgers Steve and Jol. Brownsea is said to have inspired some of Enid Blyton's most famous works, but as we shuffled around in the drizzle, grumbling about modernity and the price of National Trust cakes, I fear we were less Famous Five and more Last of the Summer Wine.
Grey Phalarope, Brownsea
Still, cake was not the main objective of this mission: rather, it was to see a Grey Phalarope which was spinning merrily on the lagoon among a host of larger waders. Cleggy Jol, Nora Claire and I got the first boat and saw the Phalarope almost straight away; fortunately it was still there when Compo Steve bowled over on the next ferry.
Avocet, Brownsea
Mission thus accomplished, after some quality time with the Avocets and Spotshanks, we went in search of Brownsea's remnant population of Golden Pheasant. At Jol's secret stakeout, to which we were led blindfold, he managed to just see a splash of red and gold through the undergrowth but the rest of us failed despite sitting next to him. Distracted, no doubt, by the resident Red Squirrels chasing around making squeaky toy noises.
Red Squirrel, Brownsea
Back on the mainland, after all the excitement of Brownsea, I needed to go somewhere quiet and birdless. I knew Swineham wouldn't let me down. Arriving at the Point - about as far as it is possible to go due east from my house without wading into Poole Harbour - the pager reported a Red-breasted Flycatcher, a surprisingly rare bird in Dorset, near Weymouth, another good find for Brett Spencer.
 Peacock sitting out a shower on Brownsea. 'I say, that bird looks foreign. Perhaps it's an illegal immigrant' (adapted from the inspiration for this post, Five Go Mad in Dorset. Described as a comedy film, but pretty much a documentary of our lives down here).
With less than two hours of daylight left this presented a 'should I stay or should I go' dilemma. It was resolved when a text message arrived from Steve and Jol offering a lift. To take advantage of it required a swift walk and an even swifter cycle ride to get back to Wareham before they did. Unable to get a signal, by the time I finally managed to get a pleading text out they had already passed the town centre, but gallantly turned around to pick me up.
This Red-backed Shrike kept us entertained while waiting for the Red-breasted Flycatcher
With the bike safely ditched in a hedgerow, we got to the Flycatcher site with over an hour of daylight left but sadly it was not enough time to find the bird. I went back again this afternoon and after a couple of fruitless hours searching, in a happy ending which could have been penned by Enid herself, I finally managed to catch up with it just before it went to roost.
The distance and low light made the R-B Fly unphotographable. Just after I saw it this Barn Owl appeared, illustrating the lateness of the hour

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