Sunday 2 December 2012

Back in the game...

After some blasphemous bleating about not getting out much lately in my last post, He moved in mysterious ways this weekend by having a word with my spouse and blessing me with a day's birding yesterday. Black Guillemot is one of my favourite birds, and just mentioning it I'm transported to special places where I have seen them in the past: the famous Broch on Mousa, the Harbour wall in Oban, and the rusty pier at Corran Ferry. So reports of one in Portland Harbour had me packing the scope in the hope of adding Tystie to my Dorset list.

A flotilla of Black-necked Grebes in Portland Harbour
Fog was forecast first thing so an early start wasn't necessary (that's my excuse anyway), and by the time I reached Weymouth the light and the sea conditions were pretty good for finding distant, diminutive auks. I grilled the harbour over several hours and from several vantage points: Sandsfoot Castle, the Sailing Academy and the Verne.

This Red-necked Grebe was close in under the ruin of Sandsfoot Castle
Red-necked and Black-necked Grebe, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Great Northern Diver, Common Guillemot and Razorbill were all present, but I could not find the Tystie. No-one else reported it yesterday but it was apparently seen again today in an area I thought I had searched thoroughly. That must have been one hell of a long dive.

Dark-bellied Brent Goose on the harbour shore near the Sailing Academy

Despite this slight frustration, the day still turned up a county tick when a White-rumped Sandpiper seen the day before was relocated at Longham Lakes. The light was harsh and the bird a bit distant by the time I arrived, and so out of practice was I that I had made the schoolboy error of forgetting my digiscoping camera. Hence the shocking sub-record shot.

White-rumped Sandpiper at Longham Lakes
The bird showed quite a strong pectoral band, not unlike the related Baird's, but every now and again it dropped its wings to reveal the diagnostic white rump. Last winter Longham hosted a Blue-winged Teal, meaning it has now brought in more Yanks than nearby Bournemouth Airport. The latest American visitor was keeping company with a single Snipe. I say Snipe, I wonder if anyone checked to see if it was a Wilson's...

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