First of all today I'd like to welcome Fabian M to our happy band of 'Followers' and say how nice it is to hear from you. I met Fabian at the Portland Bird Observatory in the early Autumn, a 14 year old, keen Dutch birder who was helping out and gaining experience as a 'ringer'. I think I can say without fear of contradiction that we got on very well together, as he seemed to with all those at the Obs. I hope we get to see each other again this year, in the meantime keep reading the Blog!
Today started much the same as the last 2, except the wind had returned to its former direction in the eastern sector, and the bright sunshine didn't last as long either. While I'd be loathed to complain about the sun it does make for easier birdwatching when the glare is eliminated. Plan A for today had been to bus to Portland first and then visit my usual haunts later, but news late yesterday afternoon of a Spoonbill at Lodmoor changed all that. A minor 'twitch' in the great plan of things, but the first of the year got me off to a little earlier start. Longcroft was simply a 'walk through' which might have been the same for Radipole, except arriving at the concrete bridge (just 50 yards onto the reserve) I got a second decent view in 2 days of a Bittern. That was enough to divert me from my track, thinking it worthwhile investigating where it had landed. No joy there, I hurried on to catch a bus at the King's Statue the first of which was a Dorchester Road service. This is good for access to the west route onto Lodmoor and the mud flats where my quarry was most likely to be. A calling Curlew flew overhead, alerting me to its presence, and as I cleared the reed bed, got straight onto the Spoonbill which was a fine adult complete with full crest. My mate Daragh (Mr Lodmoor) informed me later that this wasn't the same bird that has been seen on the moor over the past few weeks, but a much finer specimen.
A photograph that really doesn't do justice to this fine adult Spoonbill, but distance took its toll.
Before meeting Daragh I caught up with a single Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit in the area familiarly known as 'The Hump', then joined him to 'scope Weymouth Bay from Preston Beach. With nothing to report from there, we both returned to the moor where he immediately got me onto a juvenile Marsh Harrier, my 4th 'year tick' of the day.
2 aspects of what is a real favourite with me.
It was now time to head off further afield and continue what had been Plan A and as the day was so still decided another try for the Firecrest at Easton might be worth it. Half an hour and no sign, so onward to Barleycrates, (single Stonechat) Reap Lane, (nothing) Top Fields (singles of Lapwing and Common Buzzard) and the Bill where I found a group of c7 Stock Dove and got information of a Black Redstart. Calling in at the Obs for what has become a regular coffee break, I met up with another good mate Edwin Welland, which by definition means more talking than birding, but always great to see him. Tony Conway delayed me further but again these are people I just love bumping into. The Redstart was not only easy to find but also allowed a couple of shots before flying off towards the Coast Guard Lookout, while the only other sighting of note were c2 Turnstones at the Obelisk.
One of the c2 Turnstones at the point.
While it must be difficult for many of you readers to get the geographical layout of the places mentioned, I will endeavour, as we go along, to make some sense of it for you. The King's Statue mentioned above is one of the focal points in Weymouth and where many of the local bus services run from. 3 British Monarchs have left a lasting legacy in Portland and Weymouth, not least George the Third. Despite being clinically mad in his later years, and not considered overall a shining light as far as our 'rulers' go, he did almost singlehandedly put Weymouth particularly on the map. Credited with being 'the' person to popularise bathing in the sea, he built a hunting lodge here (now the Gloucester Hotel on the sea front) and along with his retinue brought thousands of people to the borough. It was interesting to note that when they made the feature film 'The Madness of King George', it was titled just that and not 'The Madness of King George III'. It was considered foolhardy by the makers to add the III as when it reached the American market no one would go to see it, waiting instead to see I and II first!
The recently refurbished and re-painted King's Statue, now also fenced off against vandals.
'Bust' detail of King George III.