Monday, 8 January 2018

Boat, Car, Tramper & Birds

As Jackie is a little restricted with her mobility due to the injury she sustained at the end of last year our new year birding has been not quite the same as usual.  We have been lucky over a number of years in  on the 1 January to be invited by a friends Mark and Mo on a round-the-harbour bird boat and this year our only worry was whether Jackie could manage to get on the boat.  After a restful New Years Eve we thought it a worth a try and we set ourselves a challenge to see 100 species in the first week of the new year. 

So as normal for birders you always check out the birds in the garden and around the house and on your travels, in our case from from home to Poole Quay picking up Liz on the way.  We arrived on the quay with plenty of time and with help from Liz and Marcus we managed to get Jackie on the boat with little problem.  As the tide was in it allowed plenty of water for the boat to head up the Wareham Channel, this Mark hoped would add to the variety of species to our harbour list which it did though the wet weather was slightly against us to start with.
Great Northern Diver Two Owls archive ©Nick Hull
Heading off from the quay we checked off Common Guillemot, Feral Pigeon, Cormorants and Dunlin though I missed Turnstone.  As we sailed past the new dock the water seemed pretty empty, it wasn't until we were opposite Patchin's / Gold Point that we started to pick up a few birds Oystercatcher, Little Egret along the shore and one or two Red-breasted Merganser further out in the harbour.  I then picked up a Great Norther Diver off Rockley Point.  As brunch was being served and we had to return back passed Holton and Keysworth I went below and joined Jackie for breakfast.  Once we arrived at the mouth of the Frome River I went back up on deck but it was soon clear that Jackie needed to be up top as well.  So with a little help we managed to get her position in a seat so she could see over the reeds lining the river bank.   We sailed up to Ridge quay where the boat turned to return to the harbour before the tide started to turn and left us high and dry. 

It was around this time the first harrier was seen a 2cy male Marsh Harrier over the Wareham Meadows, which flushed a good sized flock of Lapwing, several Black-tailed Godwit and Curlew.  Then a little later Teal, Wigeon, Mallard and a single Snipe flew up and around.  Several Little Grebe were seen and I saw a Cetti's Warbler fly across the stern of the boat and quickly disappeared into the reeds. As we came to part of the river so we could look over Arne Moors in the distance a male Hen Harrier was picked up quartering the moors shortly after I added a a ringtail moving across the same area a Kestrel was next hovering further to the left.  We rounded the mouth of the river and another male Marsh Harrier moved over Giggers Island and Bearded Tit was seen in the reeds but missed by me and Jackie.  We had three more Marsh Harrier over Keysworth one of them may have been the young male from earlier.   
Marsh Harrier from Two Owls archive © Nick Hull
Back on the harbour proper we sailed across Balls Lake area towards Arne and up the Wytch Channel to as far as Round Island.  Red-breasted Mergansers, Goldeneye and two groups of Black-necked Grebe a single Sandwich Tern over Arne Bay and a few Spoonbill roosting on Patchin's Point. Shelduck, Brent Geese and a Common Seal was nice to add to the day list as we ran up to Round Island.  We returned across the middle of the harbour and then headed to go round the back of Green Island.  As we approached Green Island with Furzy on our left I picked up a small grebe which I quickly id'ed as Slavonian when it took off and crossed the bow of the the boat enabling a number at the front to see it as it flew off towards Long Island.  We had very distant views of two Spoonbills roosting along the Wytch shoreline with Little Egrets.  More Brent, Curlew and Redshanks were between Ower and Newton's Bay as we rounded Green Island and headed towards Brownsea there was a good flock of Merg's, Goldeneye and a scattering of Great Crested Grebe.  As we passed Goathorn Point there was Dunlin and Grey Plover on the shore and Velvet and Common Scoter off Brownsea and another Great Northern Diver was seen.

Brownsea Lagoon had lots of water so waders were in low numbers but non-the-less there was the usual variety though the Stilt Sandpiper couldn't be found probably due to the depth of the water.  Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Pintail, Shoveler, Gadwall, Buzzard were all added to the list. We made out way back to the the Quay where we added Lesser Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeons, Pied Wagtails and Starlings.  Counting up there were 96 species seen from the boat a New Years Day record but I only managed 77 and Jackie only managed 58 due to the fact she could move around on deck to see everything.

Back on shore we headed off in the car to Poole Park to add a few more to our day list with Coot for me and Goldeneye, Coot and Greylag Goose for Jackie.  I was going to continue around to Sandbanks for Bar-tailed Godwits but Shore Road was jammed with queuing cars so we headed to Lytchett Matravers Saint Mary's Church in the hope that the pre Christmas Hawfinches were still visiting.  Though we had a short wait checking off species like Green and Goldfinch, Dunnock, Robin, eventually a Hawfinch flew across from one of the Yew trees right in front of us then a little later I had two flying away towards a wood to the northwest - excellent.  Next off to Hartland Moor arriving there about 16:00 after a half hour wait, seeing very little accept a couple of distant Buzzard, a Dartford Warbler started an end of day calling session right next to the car.  Then I picked up movement on a distant post and realised it was a Merlin but unfortunately by the time Liz and Jackie got out the car it had disappeared and the light was so bad we decided to call it a day and head home.
Hawfinch from Two Owls archive © Nick Hull
On the 3rd January we had a Two Owls visit to Blashford Lakes, fortunately they have a Tramper, a motorised wheelchair, so we arrived early and booked it out for Jackie so she didn't have to miss out. We met the group by the Tern Hide which is where we started the morning.  We recorded a good variety of wildfowl and had close views of a Black-necked Grebe right out front of the hide and Jackie caught up on a few duck missed of the 1st.  Joe picked up an immature gull flying in across the lake which pitched in on its own out in the middle, getting it in the scope it was a Herring Gull sized bird with a slopping forehead giving it a nosy look, it looked white headed to pale mantle and darker wing coverts black primaries with black band on tail. It appeared fairly long winged the bill showed a black goynal band with slightly paler base to the bill.  It had to be the Caspian Gull that had been regularly visiting Blashford this winter, it was a nice unexpected sighting as usually seen in the roosting birds in the late afternoon.

Next we walked to the Woodland hide and we caught up on a good number of the woodland species with highlights being Brambling and Siskin.  From the Ivy South hide it was again searching through the duck to find 'new for the year' species without luck.  We then walked up through the wood along Docken's Water, here we had Goldcrest and Jackie saw a flyover Redwing.  We turned and walked along the path beside Rockford Lake and we didn't need to walk far when I found our target bird here  of Bullfinch, in fact there was six feeding along the hedge.  From the screen we added Teal to the year for Jackie and by the end of the day I had made 101 for the year and Jackie was on 86.

We drove home via Ibsley stopping by the water meadows and looked through a flock Greylag Geese and found the adult Pink-footed Geese, then further up the lane to North End Farm were a flock of Egyptian Geese.

Back in the Car
Our next chance to try and get Jackie up to 100 in the first week of the year had to wait until the 6th and we decided the best way to add to our list was to head to the Weymouth area stopping at a couple sites on route.  From home we drove to Lane End and Hyde then on to Tincleton Cressbeds picking up a number of the usual species such as Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtails, Collared Dove and Song Thrush.  One of the highlights were Bullfinches seeing several flitting around the hedgerows. Next we wound our way to Lewell as there had been a Cattle Egret seen the previous day in a field behind the Barn.  On arrival we found at least thirty Little Egret in with cattle in a field two back from Lewell Barn.  It took five minutes or so to find the right place to view the field to see all the egrets feeding there.  After a short while I found the Cattle Egret, also 2 Egyptian Geese, and Jackie was able to get a view with only  having to take a few steps.  On to Maiden Castle where we added Mediterranean Gull, Linnet and Skylark but no Corn Bunting or Golden Plover.
Little Owl - Portland Obs Quarry © Nick Hull
After lunch our first stop was Sandsfoot Castle which gives a good view across Portland Harbour, adding Red-breasted Mergansers, Great Crested Grebe, a distant Great Northern Diver and Black-necked Grebe.  After a while  of scanning the harbour I added Goldeneye and then Razorbill but little else could be found so time to move on.  The tide wasn't right for Ferrybridge so we headed to Portland Bill where we stopped briefly to view the Obs Quarry and was successful finding the Little Owl.  Then on to the Bill car park for a seawatch though the first bird to be added was a Raven in the car park.  Viewing out over the sea we had our first Gannet then Kittiwake, I then picked up diver flying past probably a Black-throated but needed a scope on it to clinch it.  However the Rock Pipit was easy on the lighthouse building and a pair Stonechat was nice to see flitting around the rock just out from us.  It was now time to drive home.

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