Monday, 9 February 2015

Binge birding

Family visits and illness have prevented much birding getting done in recent weekends so I was overdue a binge this one, and spent most of Saturday and Sunday in the field. The justification for doing so on Saturday was provided by my long lost friend Nigel, down from London for the day, who contacted me out of the blue to say he was into birding now and wanted to see some raptors.
Little Egret, Holes Bay - several seen during our day out
Smew - present in Holes Bay first thing Saturday but not later when we completed our circuit of Poole Harbour
Spoonbill - a bit of a banker species - this fine adult was at Middlebere, another young bird was at Holes Bay
Eager to oblige, after a quick twirl around Holes Bay we headed off to Middlebere. Hen and Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and Buzzard were all in the bag after less than an hour so with raptor-lust thus satiated we continued around the harbour to notch up the usual fayre of Black-necked Grebes, Mediterranean Gulls, Purple Sands, Avocets and Spoonbills, most of these lifers for Nigel.
Dunnock: low hanging fruit for the photo year list (#74)
Greenfinch: ditto (#75)
A stunning drake Wigeon in Holes Bay
Apart from dipping on Dartford Warbler (a speciality of mine when friends visit, I blamed the cold, windy weather this time), Sparrowhawk (Nigel made a specific request, I had to explain they were tricky to produce on demand) and Smew (one was in Holes Bay in the morning when I did an early recce, but could not be found by the time we returned in the afternoon), most of what I hoped to lay on for my visitor duly appeared.
Marsh Harrier gave a close flypast at Middlebere
Marsh Harrier
Hen Harrier was not so obliging, but still good to see
Not that he was that bothered, and there is clearly a way to go before he has fully turned to the dark side. I assumed that, travelling from London for a day trip, he was getting pretty serious and looking to see as many species as possible that can't found in the environs of Forest Hill, salubrious though they are, to boost a burgeoning list and feed a growing obsession. But no, he was happy to see a Hen Harrier and the Spoonbill was an exotic bonus. A typical snippet of conversation:

Me: 'So the plain backed wader with the long straight bill is a Black-tailed Godwit, while the smaller one with red legs is a Redshank; not that one though that's a Spotted Redshank as it's paler grey with a finer bill and longer legs...'

Nige: 'I'm not sure I'll ever get the hang of these waterbirds. I'm pretty determined not to try'.

Me: 'You really haven't got the hang of this birdwatching thing yet, have you?'
Green Woodpecker, Studland (#76)
Mediterranean Gull, Studland
Purple Sandpiper, Sandbanks (#77)
So, as you can see, he's still far too well adjusted to be considered a proper obsessive, and I clearly have some work to do. Another visit is already being planned...As for this weekend's birding binge, that will continue into the next post.
Avocet. 'Nice and easy, Nige: black and white, upturned bill, same as on your RSPB Birdspotters Book' 
'Also nice and easy: Curlew, long de-curved bill, and speckly on the back.
Black-tailed Godwit (#78): 'A bit trickier this one - straight bill, plain back in winter, not to be confused with Bar-tailed Godwit, which has a similar bill but back more like a Curlew and...' Nige: 'Whatever.'

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