Sunday 14 April 2024

Back with a whimper

So long is it since I posted anything in this space I had to blow the dust off first. Not sure why exactly - there never seems to be enough time I suppose, but I am hereby resolving to make time rather than doom-scrolling through social media of an evening - and invite you, dear reader, to doom-scroll through this one. Because if I've had a shittier afternoon this year I can't recall it. 

Sandwich Tern, Arne
It started well enough with a genteel visit to the local garden centre with the lovely wife - yes we're that old, and we really needed that trellis - when news reached me that a Forster's Tern, the same individual which turned up in the area this time last year, was back at Arne. I felt almost obliged to go despite already having spent some 15 hours in the 4 days after I returned from an Easter family holiday in Scotland (more on which later) looking for it without success.

Little Owls haven't always played ball on my visits to Portland by bike - but yesterday one sat out nicely
There are of course worse places to sit than the beach at Arne, which affords views of Long, Round and Brownsea Islands, against the backdrop of urban Poole, but I confess the sight of it was wearing a bit thin by my fifth visit in a week. The Forster's had been pretty faithful to Shipstal Point during its extended stay last autumn but not so this spring, its appearances being both fleeting and erratic. It has been reliably seen on Brownsea most days, but this is not really accessible for the purposes of my non-motorised yearlisting exploits.
Red-throated Divers were heading east past Portland Bill fairly regularly
It's a 25 minute bike ride from home in Wareham to Shipstal Point, so even on the occasions when I have been able to go 'on news', there has still been plenty of time for the Tern to have rested up and gone fishing again by the time I arrive - I missed it by minutes on one occasion last weekend. By the time we got back from the garden centre, therefore, I knew today's effort was something of a long-shot. As I rolled up to the bike rack at Shipstal Point my rear tyre deflated but at least this happened at the end not the start of the journey. I figured I would pump it up it later just before heading home, as the self-sealing inner tube would likely just need re-flating rather than replacing.

A summer plumaged Great Northern Diver was heading the opposite way to the Red-throats
Before the Tern appeared, my plan had been to have a lazy afternoon at home watching Liverpool beat Crystal Palace to regain their rightful place at the top of the Premier League - but I realised thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I could set up the scope on the beach, keep one eye out for the Tern, and the other on the football streaming live to my phone. To cut the long story of the next couple of hours short, Liverpool lost the match and the Tern failed to reappear. 
A quick stop at Lodmoor on the way home from Portland produced over 50 Med Gulls
I tweeted how 'things could be worse, I could have two punctures', then returned to the bike to find that I had just that. Had my friend and massive Palace fan Marcus Lawson not moved to Scotland I would have laid odds that it was he who let the tyres down, just to rub it in. In the end he just had to make do with trolling me on social media. Neither self-sealing inner tube would hold pressure on re-flating - for one not to do so is unfortunate, for two not to do so unheard of. Fortunately I was carrying a couple of spares and after some faffing around to replace them I was on my way, cursing my luck, the Forster's Tern and Eberechi Eze, the scorer of Palace's winning goal. 
Med Gull at Lodmoor, 13th April
These are, of course, very much first world problems and entirely of my own making - no-one is forcing me to obsessively twitch Forster's Terns by bike or indeed support Liverpool - but it still made for a pretty crap day. Better, then, to think happy thoughts of yesterday, when I made my first trip of the year to Portland by bike, confident that a few new birds would be added to the non-motorised year list. 

Med Gulls at Lodmoor
Whilst chasing around for Pied Flys and Ring Ouzels proved unsuccessful, in the end I managed six new species for the year - Wheatear and Little Terns at Ferrybridge, Little Owl at the Bill, and Kittiwake, Red-throated Diver and Manx Shearwater on the sea. This decent little haul brought the list to 149 for 2024 - way down on the tally for the last 3 years, reflecting the fact that I am trying to find a slightly better balance this year between birding by bike and fulfilling other duties. But don't tell the Forster's Tern that!
Linnet on Wareham Common added a splash of colour to the day

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