Sunday, 3 May 2009
A Day in Dorset - 02/05/2009
My name is Mark Skevington, and I am a twitcher ...... Excepting county birds, it's well over a year since I last caved in to the old twitching mentality. News of a Collared Flycatcher during the week at Portland got me interested though, and when an Eastern Bonelli's Warbler was also on the same housing estate (!) on the Friday I gave in and got myself sorted for a long day on Dorset. I left home at 04:30am (no intention of being there at first light), and arrived at just gone 08:30 after an obligatory stop at McDonalds to use the facilities and scoff a McMuffin. I parked up in the temporary car park and made my way down to Southwell to what I expected to be a roped off area in a field looking into the back of some gardens. However the crowd was gathered on the roadway in front of the original finders garden and doing what a twitching crowd does. It was soon clear that the bird was showing frequently, but not well with only fleeting glimpses for a few depending on how close to the front of the crowd they were. Luckily, about 40 minutes after I arrived, the crowd did move to the now accessible nearby field with ample room for all looking over to the back of gardens and along an open row of large trees. Within seconds, everyone had superb scope views of the bird. And what a cracker - well worth the journey. I watched it for a good 45 minutes, as it constantly flitted about and flycatched. The only time it sat still was to sing. Sadly, it was never close enough for me to even try and photograph it. There are not too many great shots of it on the web either, with the clear exception of Pete Saunders shots on the Portland Observatory website - I think it was Pete's garden that the bird was in. See Pete's shots here and here. What a superb bird! About a third of the crowd, watching the bird in the large sycamore adjacent to the gardens it favoured. After the pleasure of watching such a superb rarity, the rest of the day was a bit flat albeit in superb and very warm full sunshine. Needless to say the Eastern Bonelli's had fecked off overnight. I decided to spend some time on Portland Bill expecting a few common migrants to be knocking about, but aside from a good few Wheatears and plenty of Swallows moving in it was pretty quiet - no Whinchats and no overhead raptors. Looking out from the bill produced a handful of Razorbills, Guillemots and Gannets but no skuas or sheawaters. Shame really as it felt like I'd wasted two and a half hours that could have been spent elsewhere. Little Owl in the Portland Observatory quarry Portland Observatory, the old lighthouse and cottages Portland Bill lighthouse Portland Bill Once I got back to the car and got going, I headed for Radipole Lake for a quick look at the long-staying Hooded Merganser of unknown (= captive?) origin. I expected to get out of the car, look at it, and get going again. What a bastard! Tame and easy it wasn't, wary and elusive it was. At least for half an hour anyway. It was right up one of the channels away from the visitor centre and sticking close to the bank. It was heading in that general direction though, and after another 20 minutes or so it was milling about right next the centre with all the scummy Mallard type hybrids! Never mind it's credentials, it was a superb looking duck and worth seeing whilst in the area. Whilst the Hooded Merganser looked resplendent, the Coot chicks were just plain fucking ugly! Not much going for it! All of the birds around Radipole seem to thrive on public handouts - there was a gathering of Herring Gulls acting like the Bastard Geese at Watermead CP. Feed us now 2S Adult Whilst looking for the merganser, there was plenty of singing from Cetti's and Sedge Warblers but I didn't see either. By now I was feeling a bit knackered and decided to head for Studland Heath before making my way home. Another waste of time really - all of the traffic seemed to funnel down to Corfe Castle & Swanage so it took a while to get there. Once I got on the heath, it was windy and despite my best efforts there were no reptiles to be found. Plenty of Large Red Damselflys about though, and a few Common Heath. Large Red Damselfly After a pretty fruitless hour at Studland, I got on the Poole Ferry and called it a day. Collared Flycatcher OMFL!