Tuesday 17 January 2017

Birthday treats

It was my birthday recently - a stuttering but undefeated innings of 48, in case you were wondering. To celebrate almost half-a-century of under-achievement I cleared my professional decks, booked the day off work and did some birding around Poole Harbour. The children were at school and Claire was at work, affording me the luxury of neglecting the entire family to go looking for birds without guilt.
Lesser Yellowlegs at Lytchett Bay
Green-winged Teal, just leaving Lytchett Bay
Redhead Smew distantly in Holes Bay
The once fierce competition between Lytchett Bay and Swineham as Poole Harbour birding locations, a fire stoked in these pages on more than one occasion in the past, has tailed off somewhat in recent years. Lytchett has gone from strength to strength under sympathetic management by the RSPB, being diligently scoured by Top 10 Patchwork Challengers (impressive, though I still think Patchwork Challenge sounds like a needlecraft contest). Swineham has gone downhill under a less wildlife-friendly regime, being wilfully neglected by feckless regulars like yours truly. So much so that I felt barely a flicker of shame in shunning the latter for the former to go looking for Lytchett's two long-staying winter rarities from the Americas: a Lesser Yellowlegs and drake Green-winged Teal.
Dark-bellied Brent Geese at Baiter Park
Coot, Poole Park
Drake Goldeneye and Red-breaster Merganser were out in the middle of Poole Park lake
The Yellowlegs was easy enough, sitting out nicely with a Redshank for comparison, the only two medium-sized waders on one of the pools. The Teal required a bit more luck: it flew off just after I arrived, but not before a kindly soul had let me have a quick squint at it through his scope, hence the dodgy record shot above, hurriedly snapped as it pelted away. Around the corner a returning redhead Smew was in Holes Bay for its third winter, while Poole Park held a few photogenic fowl as always. I caught up with a trio of Great White Egrets slightly further afield at Longham Lakes before heading over on the Sandbanks ferry to complete a circuit of the Harbour.
A lone Black-tailed Godwit was on the shore of Poole Park lake
Little Egret, Poole Park lake
Three Great White Egrets at Longham Lakes
The last hour of daylight was spent at Studland, where the raucous calls of a couple of Sandwich Terns were a cruel reminder of just how far away is spring, and the even more raucous calls of the local Ring-necked Parakeets were an equally cruel reminder of just how far away and warm is their native India.
Ring-necked Parakeet, Studland
Ring-necked Parakeet, Studland
Sandwich Tern, Studland
I would say watching the sun go down at Studland completed the day, but that wasn't really the end of it as on arriving home there was a birthday present to play with: the US Capitol building from the Lego Architecture range. Quite repetitive assembling the orderly lines of neoclassical columns and other fiddly bits, but ridiculously satisfying, a pure indulgence, and, I am reliably informed by the teenager of the house, substantially more socially acceptable than making an Airfix model. The perfect gift for the middle-aged man-boy in your life.
The US Capitol Building courtesy of the Lego Architecture range - George Washington laid the first brick. If you listen carefully this model makes a strange whirring noise: the sound of a miniature George turning in his grave.

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