Monday, 31 March 2008

Dorset 23rd-24th March 2008

I went to Dorset for a night last weekend. I was hoping to go to Cheddar reservoir and get a Bonaparte's Gull, with a Red-necked Grebe and some Scaup, so there would be three lifers in one day. But it was not to be.It was too far away from where we were staying. But despite this major disappointment, I still managed to fit in some fantastic birding!On the Sunday, we were nearing Dorset when a Raven flew over the car, chasing a Carrion Crow, it even tumbled for me! This was great, it is one of my favourite birds and an unexpected year tick.We arrived at the hotel, where there were nesting Jackdaws and Rooks nearby, but fortunately for me, we were too early to check in and settle into our room so we ended up going to Pennington Marshes earlier than planned. The marsh was interesting with lots of Dark-bellied Brent Geese (2008 tick) and a female Goosander with a few male and female Red-breasted Mergansers swimming next to each other! Other birds of note included a very showy Greenshank with a red ring on its right leg that I really must report (2008 tick) and one or two Ringed Plover and a few Grey Plover.Black-tailed Godwits were plentiful. Otherwise, there was not much of note.The next day we headed off to Arne RSPB, first we went round the smaller heath trail. Before we started, I had a look at the feeders, and I saw a Marsh Tit, quite unexpected and yet another year tick. I saw one singing later on, this is the first time I have heard this. The gorse itself did not provide much, but the view of the river from the trail did provide some great birds with 11 pure white Spoonbill, all either asleep or half asleep; every so often I would see one awaken and show me its strangely shaped bill for which they get their name. They were lovely, and as a bonus, another year tick. There were lots of Shelduck and one or two Greenshank there too. As I was scanning, I heard a scratchy song, immediately Dartford Warbler came to mind. Sure enough, after a good while of searching it popped up for a second. A brief but good view, a year tick and just brilliant. I had already seen 3 birds that I hardly ever see, and I realised that in spring Arne would be an even more fantastic place to be.We finished the trail, with nothing else of note being seen and went to have lunch in a nearby pub. I persuaded mum and dad who had until then broken they're promise to return after lunch and do the rest of it, to do so.We agreed only to walk up to the viewpoint and hide along the other trail. The farm was pretty disappointing, but I did see a Redwing and a Fieldfare right next to eachother on the way back. It turned out that I missed the viewpoint and the raised hide didn't show me anything interesting other than a few Red-breasted Mergansers in the harbour. I don't know what it is about this year and Red-breasted Mergansers, I didn't see any last year, or the year before or before and before and maybe even further back! I have seen about 30 this month alone.On the way back the deer let us get extremely close and I saw the above mentioned Fieldfare and Redwing. Near the car park a Buzzard flew over.When packing away, what did we see on the latest sightings board? Male Hen Harrier and Rough-legged Buzzard. 'oh....' I uttered to myself. Yes, a disapointment but I did see Marsh Tit, very close and singing, a Dartford Warbler, singing (I think i was the only person that day to see one), 11 Spoonbill, Red-breasted Mergansers, Redwing and Fieldfare sitting right by each other and much more. Although, to be honest, missing the Harrier and Rough leg is of course still really bugging me.

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