The benign forecast swelled our numbers this week to 27 who all made the climb out of the White Horse car park towards Winterbourne. Jackdaws aplenty along this stretch of road, and on the Whiteshill cricket pavilion. We struck across country at Pye Corner where one keen eye spotted a circling Sparrowhawk, at a height over the distant tree line. Along a short stretch of road we also had a handful of Robins singing their hearts out to proclaim and define their winter territories. Woodpigeon was the most common species among the Alms-houses and Bungalows and the allotments proved uninspiring. Where were all the birds? Our stop for coffee and entertainment improved the tally with Carrion Crow, Pied Wagtail, Greenfinches, and then Goldfinches. From the back of the school we crossed into the Bradley Brook Nature Reserve on whose border a small flock of migrating Skylarks were mixing and matching with some family groups of Swallows. Late-departing House Martins followed them closely, all on the same heading – South East. The local power lines proved irresistible to a parcel of Linnets, gathering and re-gathering in a noisy twitter of pink blushed colouring. The Monks Pool Reserve, fascinating remnants of Middle Ages fish farming, showed evidence of recent use by the trails through the duckweed, but no live waterfowl! Back towards home, through the 13th/14th century churchyard and past the Tithe barn heading towards the rail track where Kestrel appeared over the graveyard and Pied Wagtail on the barn. The footbridge by Brooks farm had the final birds of the day with Grey Wagtail beneath the bridge and a pair of Buzzards circling above. A total of 29, which is pretty good for this time of year. Thanks to David for leading (and entertaining!) us on this interesting walk.
Nick and Annie Hawkridge
A very wet morning, but ten of us walked up the path to the top of the Down enjoying Ravens and Jackdaws performing aerial acrobatics and a distant Peregrine. Then a male Kestrel flew over.The mud flats held a Little Egret, a Grey Heron, a Cormorant, lots of Shelducks and a few Mallards and Teal. A couple of Curlews and Oystercatchers were also seen. In spite of the steady drizzle the Wheatears and Stonechats (at least two of each), were giving good views and we heard Chiff-Chaff ‘wheeting’ and Blackcap ‘tacking’. We stopped to admire Centaury and Yellow Wort in flower and there were Goldfinches, Linnets, Swallows and House Martins about as well as Long-tailed Tits. A bright yellowish-warbler seen by some of the party could have been a Wood Warbler or a young Willow Warbler. Everyone’s bins were very steamed up! Finally on the way back we saw a Sparrowhawk which flew off the top of the Down towards the car park.In spite of the damp, an enjoyable walk – no rarities but plenty of good birds. 35 species in all.
Sue & John Prince
Nine members met with Jane, our leader for the day, at Ferrybridge car park at 9.30 on a very blustery day with lots of white horses out to sea. High tide coincided with our arrival and the only birds to be seen were a juvenile Herring Gull, a Black-headed Gull and a diminutive wader which appeared to walk under the BHG; it was of course a Little Stint. Jane briefly outlined the plan for the day and we were off to Portland Bill. Sheltering behind the Obelisk we sea-watched for the best part of an hour. A steady straggle of Gannets was flying down channel into the wind. Two Balearic Shearwaters were picked up but it was doubtful if we all saw both in the rough seas. Otherwise a single auk, various gulls, and some Shags and Cormorants was a poor total for an hour’s watching. We walked along the East Cliff seeing Rock Pipits, a lone Turnstone and several Wheatear. The short grass held small groups of finches – Green and Goldfinches, Linnets, Wagtails (Pied and/or White) Starlings and gulls. We walked up through the cabins area to look at the Obs Quarry. A very obliging Whitethroat sat up in the open but other birds were not so keen. The walk back behind the Pulpit Pub produced a Skylark and some Meadow Pipits, but it was too windy for most species to be in the open.
We drove up to Southwell to check the top fields and were initially serenaded by a noisy group of House Sparrows. Further on we saw two or three Kestrels desperately trying to hover in the little shelter provided by the 8 stunted trees. The wild bird food planted area had only a few finches but the wind was exhilarating with even the resident horses seeking shelter. The pager having alerted us to two Grey Phalaropes at Chesil Cove, we managed to park and were eventually well rewarded by sightings of both birds – not at all easy in the heaving swell and broken waves. The sun was shining strongly as we sat on the seawall seats to eat our lunch and watch the Phalaropes. A lone Razorbill put in a brief appearance to join the small group of BHGs. A memorable lunch stop. Back to Ferrybridge with the tide now well out and lots of mud. Apart from 2 heavy rain showers ( the only ones of the day ) Jane was counting Ringed Plover, was it 86 or 87? Elsewhere was a Little Egret with its plumes blown all over the place, Dunlin, Turnstone, Starlings and a few gulls. In the distance the telescopes picked up Mediterranean Gull and Oystercatcher, Sandwich Terns flew over, identified by call, but otherwise it was very quiet.
We moved on to Radipole RSPB Centre for news of birds in and around Weymouth. Lodmoor appeared to be devoid of birds according to the Centre’s log, so we checked the view from the Centre with 2 Little Stints, a single Snipe and Sand Martin plus the usual fresh water species including the Hooded Merganser of doubtful origin. We stopped at the Tennis Courts car park for a very obliging Arctic Tern. At the end of the day we had seen a reported 53 species between us which considering the weather was quite satisfying. Strangely we failed to see any of the reported Skuas but they will have to wait for another day. Many thank, Jane, for showing us the best of Portland.
Not a very bright day, with heavy rain early on, so it was not surprising that only ten people turned up. Collared Dove, House Sparrow and Blackbird were seen around the Church, and as we walked down the Gang Wall path the first Chiffchaff was heard and later seen. A Sparrowhawk was seen by a few as it hedge hopped, and a mixed flock of Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit and Chiffchaff flitted past at the end of the path which had been protecting us from the rain. This now became heavy, so we put on our wet gear and battled our way across the fields with heads held low. We took a welcome stop at a convenient barn for coffee, as the rain eased and six or seven Greenfinch perched for a while on overhead wires. We saw swooping Swallows, House Martins and one lone Sand Martin over the railway line, with Goldfinch and Kestrel further along at the start of Wemberham Lane and then two Lapwings and a Grey Heron up against a far hedge. A very smart Red Admiral Butterfly was seen posing for a photo shoot and just after that we saw an amazing total of 30 to 40 House Sparrows pecking away in a chicken run. As we made our way back, we added Buzzard, Moorhen, about 30 Mallards, Starling, Dunnock and Great Tit to our list. A total of 32 species was noted. It was also a good walk for butterflies with Comma, Speckled Wood, Small White and lots of Red Admirals.
(Many thanks for leading, Geoff.)
We had an unpromising start with rain which seldom let up throughout the walk. However 13 of us persevered during which time Gadwall, Sand Martin, and Common Tern put in an appearance on the sheltered side of the lake, taken to give us some protection from the elements. Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard and Swallows and House Martins seemed to be gathering for their long journey, but after an hour and a half, we admitted defeat in the face of torrential rain and made our way home. 18 species seen. (Thanks to Margaret for leading.)