June 2021 has produced some spectacular records of rare birds around the UK, mostly on offshore islands, but, as expected, migration of commoner species has slowed to a trickle at the same time. Although the month started with a bang with my mammoth mission to Lyme Regis, a trip from which I'm still not sure I have fully recovered, it's been a bit slow since then. That said, there have been two further additions to the non-motorised year list and from a family which might be surprising given its relatively small size in UK terms - namely, the gamebirds.
'What can he mean', I hear you ask - 'Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge, Grey Partridge, isn't that it for Dorset'? Believe it or not, Black Grouse is actually on the Dorset list but they haven't been seen lekking on our lowland heaths since the 1920s. Quail, by contrast, seems to be on the up in recent years with several calling birds returning over the last few summers to the area around the National Trust's Kingston Lacy estate. I went to listen to them in a weedy field last June (seeing them being seemingly impossible) which was a riot of colour with poppies and other wildflowers providing cover not just for the Quail but numerous pairs of Skylark and Corn Bunting.
|The new chariot: a reward to myself for all that cycling - 1,500+ miles so far in 2021|
|The only one of June's mega-rarities which was realistically 'twitchable' for me was the River Warbler over the border in Somerset|
The large field preferred by the Quail was bisected by a public footpath and after walking its length and concluding that at least two birds were singing, I adopted the same strategy as on my visit last year: sit down quietly with a good view of the path and hope beyond hope that one would walk across! This strategy failed miserably last year, though on this occasion one calling bird seemed to be getting closer and closer as it responded to another male calling further down the field - so close in fact that I couldn't quite believe it wasn't visible. I could even hear what the guide books describe as the creaky 'mau-wau' introductory notes before the classic 'wet-my-lips' song (just about audible towards the end of the clip above, just after the Corn Bunting jangle).
|At 60 miles the River Warbler was beyond my cycling range so I indulged myself with only my third out of county car trip of the year|
|We saw a River Warbler on our last Shetland holiday, but I couldn't resist a spring male in full song|
A fallow period then followed with no new birds for the year between 3rd June and today - the longest gap I have experienced between additions to date. The deadlock was broken by another gamebird, one of Dorset's better kept secrets, in the form of a Golden Pheasant. This introduced species makes it onto category C of the British list by virtue of self-sustaining populations in the wild, mainly in Norfolk - but Poole Harbour also hosts a population which has survived if not thrived in the fox-free Rhododendron thickets of Brownsea and Furzey Islands. The invasive Rhondodendron has been cleared from much of Brownsea, reducing habitat for the pheasants there, but it remains abundant on Furzey, and birds can occasionally be seen near the island slipway by desperate year listers with telescopes viewing from the Redhorn Point area.
|A lovely bird and worth the slightly agraphobic feelings on leaving Dorset and meeting other birders!|
|Looking out to Brownsea and Furzey from Redhorn|
|The Furzey Island slipway digiscoped from Redhorn Quay - a distance of just over a mile. Patient viewing can produce occasional sightings of Golden Pheasant crossing the road beyond the slipway.|