Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Back in the saddle

After the pleasant surprise of a Melodious Warbler singing on 24 June just five miles from home, the opportunities to add to my non-motorised year list dried up to the extent that it would be another nineteen days before I could add to it - the longest period in 2021 that the list has remained static. 

Common Sandpiper, Abbotsbury, 11 July
Fortunately, early July offered plenty of distractions, sporting and otherwise, and while I still clocked up just shy of 300 miles on the bike during the month of June, it was in truth 'front-loaded' to the early part of the month. It was an unwelcome surprise, therefore, to look in the mirror one morning last week and find the shadow of my peak lockdown paunch starting to return.
Common Sandpiper, Abbotsbury, 11 July
The shock and disgust of this discovery was enough to prompt an ambitious trek back to Abbotsbury on Sunday, where the off-chance of bumping into a Roseate Tern provided a strong incentive to saddle up. I knew from a previous trip that the journey would a pleasant one on quiet back roads as far as Dorchester, followed by a dramatic series of climbs and drops down to the Jurassic Coast. Abbotsbury Swanherd Steve Groves had advised that although 4 Roseates had been seen the day before my visit, there was no particular pattern to their appearances, but his colleague Joe Stockwell kindly agreed to keep an eye out and relay news in any case. 
Common Tern, Abbotsbury, 11 July
As I climbed up towards the Hardy Monument on the South Dorset Ridgway, the heavens opened and the forecast, which was for a bit of light rain at worst, turned out to be wide of the mark. I pressed on and squelched into the Swannery where I was glad to be shown to the shelter of the Helen Hide by Joe. We couldn't locate any Roseate Terns but after he returned to work I was entertained for a couple of hours anyway by the comings and goings of the tern colony and a couple of obliging Common Sandpipers outside the hide. 
A distant Great White Egret perched on a gate at Swineham, 13 July
Just as I had dried out the rain started again, but time was pushing on so there was nothing for it but to strike out for home into the downpour. The benefit of dipping the Roseate Terns was that I felt no obligation to get all the way home under my own steam, and was able to jump on the train at Dorchester to avoid cycling the last 15 or so miles in deteriorating conditions. At 35 miles for the day, though, it was still a decent workout.
Yellow-legged Gull, Swineham, 13 July
The Abbotsbury adventure may have failed to deliver the first addition to the year list for July, but the patch delivered last night with a brutish adult Yellow-legged Gull, bringing the total to 193, my second Great White Egret of the year and my first record of breeding Egyptian Goose at Swineham. The scrapes have been topped up nicely by the recent rain so let's hope they start to pull in some returning waders soon. Ruff, Wood Sandpiper and Curlew Sandpiper all remain on my target list for the year - so I'll settle for any of those in the next few weeks!
Yellow-legged Gull, Swineham, 13 July

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