Friday 1 January 2021

Happy New Hips!

Local birders are going 'green' for this year's New Year bird race, eschewing motorised transport for their rusty bicycles and shank's ponies. Having been cycling a fair bit lately I thought I would give it a crack, starting around 0730 with my first stop at Bestwall where calling Cetti's and flying Water Rail obliged. Then just as my Stock Dove stake-out site was delivering, my rear brake cable snapped! Cycling on ice with only a front brake seemed a tad reckless so I returned home to assess the options, the least worst of which was to ditch the road bike for a 20-year old mountain bike gathering dust at the back of the shed - better off-road but not so comfortable on it.

The old bike needed a bit of fixing up with panniers etc for the telescope and tripod so an hour or so had been wasted in total before I tazzed back to Swineham as per the original plan. Most of the common duck, a tittering Grebe and a Bearded Tit were some reward but not the hoped for Marsh Harrier or Snipe. Friends who live en route at 'Curlews' had been under strict instruction to top up their feeders the night before, delivering an easy Nuthatch, Coal Tit and the only Pheasant of the day. A pair of Egyptian Geese has been spending time in their garden but not this morning, so next stop (after drive-by Fieldfare on the rugby pitch) was Holme Lane where three were seen, along with Pintail.

Then for the long slog to Durlston (via Norden sewage works for Chiffchaff, Grey Wag plus bonus Jay, Mistle Thrush and Redwing). The journey was punctuated by a Treecreeper flying a few feet from my face across the road in Harman's Cross - back of the net! The hill up to Durlston was a killer - the only one all day that forced me to dismount and push the bike - but once there, after a slow start, Guillemot, Gannet, Shag, Peregrine and a perky Black Redstart appeared. Time was running out so I had to give up on hopes of a Razorbill, Kittiwake or Fulmar, and was disappointed not to find a Rock Pipit. Swanage seafront similarly drew a blank with the latter, 

Having resisted the lure of chips in Swanage, my first meal of the day came after another hip-replacement inducing slog up to Studland, and consisted of Xmas leftovers at Middle Beach where both Black-necked and Slavonian Grebe were ticked. Brands Bay offered four Scaup plus a host of roosting waders but it took a 20-minute vigil at Jerry's Point to see Grey and Ringed Plover, plus Dartford Warbler, Stonechat, a couple of Common Scoter, a dozen Goldeneye and a trio of Great Northern Diver (plus a brace of Slavs fresh in). 

The wintering Long-Tailed Ducks proved a bridge too far and the light was now fading so I had to ditch plans to look for Purple Sandpiper at the ferry terminal and make tracks via the off-road route through Rempstone to Middlebere, which I had originally hoped to reach about 1500. A fiddly chain problem delayed me still further and it was gone 1600 by the time I arrived so I saw none of my targets for the site: the brake cable debacle had cost me dearly. A Tawny Owl calling from the darkness of Arne Moors was the last bird of the day - a total of 94 species heard or seen, or 95 if I count the obviously wild Fulvous Whistling Duck at Swineham...

I arrived home at 1800 and the day ended as it had begun - with plans for a long soak scuppered by there being no hot water! A couple of bottles of 'Forgotten Orchard' from the excellent Purbeck Cider Company later though, and the aches and pains are all, well, forgotten. 

Having seen no Woodpeckers or Harriers, nor Spoonbill, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Snipe, Knot, Purple Sand, Med Gull (!), Kingfisher, Parakeet, Skylark, Woodlark, Yellowhammer or Rock Pipit, 100 species on this circuit is definitely do-able and I might even have made it myself but for brake-break-gate. Still, after about 30 miles cycled/walked, a decent winter 'own steam' bird-race entry I hope, for the over-50s category at least ;-)
Peregrine Falcon - reliable on the cliffs at Durlston (pic from last year)