Sunday 29 December 2013


A good forecast, the last for a while, and no commitments today (ditto) saw me heading for Portland Harbour again for more leisurely study of the Brünnich's Guillemot. My Boxing Day twitch was exhilarating but not very rewarding photographically. A second visit last night produced excellent views but only poor photos in low light. Today I had enough time and light to do a bit better, and to try both of the main techniques being employed by photographers on site: namely (i) stake out a promising looking spot and wait for it to come to you; or (ii) run around like a headless chicken and try to anticipate where it will surface next after an extended dive. Both techniques produced a fair amount of failure, but both a few successes. First some stake-out shots:
The bird spent much of today in and around the marina.
Between frequent dives it would adopt this low in the water posture with wings dropped
A good stake out was on the harbour edge opposite a stone breakwater, a small gap through which the Brünnich's Guillemot had to pass when moving between Castletown and the marina. It passed through this several times in an hour last night, but only once or twice all the time I was present today - on this occasion I was in position.
Taken from the same place in low light last night.
Back among the piers of the marina.

And a few from the headless chicken collection:
A more alert posture, and one of my favourite views of the day
Trying to out-stare me.
Not a great shot but included to show how different this bird could look when sat high in the water.
Plus a few action shots. I was hoping for a wing flap but in about 6 hours I only saw it flap once, and it was too far out to photograph at the time.
An energetic dive...
...and a typical view of it vanishing under water.
Another mammoth dive begins.
I toyed with joining the birder's wagon train to Brixham for the White-billed Diver but, reflecting on the likelihood of ever having a better chance of photographing Brünnich's Guillemot, I decided to stay put. And when the Guillemot wasn't showing there were other birds to photograph:
Red-breasted Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Red-breasted Mergansers
Black Guillemot - still very distant.
Black Guillemot. Out with the buoys.
Great Northern Diver off Hamm Beach last night.
Brünnich's Guillemot: Dorset Bird of the Year 2013