Sunday, December 29, 2013

The BIG Twitch....Saturday 28.12.2013.

After a very kind offer from Birding mate Tim Cowley,Myself,Tim,Andy Hood and John Sadler started on the long journey south to Dorset.After a couple of welcome stops to stretch the legs and have a drink we arrived at our destination Portland Castle car park in a very windy and cold Dorset,it was still fairly dark,so we dozed in the car for a while until the light began to break.We all got our gear on in great anticipation the bird was still here and as we walked along the waters edge all of a sudden there it was 40 feet away...the almost mythical Brunnich's Guillemot,talk about an easy twitch!.We watched the bird as it gave cripplingly close views as it dived for food,but could easily give us the slip as it stayed under the water for quite long periods,popping up a good distance from it's original position.As it moved it's way around the bay feeding almost continuously,it was sometimes lost behind boats in the marina area and in these periods we enjoyed other great sightings in the form of at least 12 Red-breasted Merganser,a Great-northern Diver and a lovely winter plumaged Black Guillemot.Overhead 2 Black-throated Divers gave cracking views and another Great-northern Diver flew distantly over the outer edge of the Harbour.We went to back to watching this mega rare bird as it began to show again,narrowly escaping being mowed down by some unaware rowers and we enjoyed some more views before it was time to move onto the next site....target 1 was well and truly in the bag.As Radipole lake RSPB reserve was on the doorstep,just up the road,we popped in after a quick refreshment stop at Mcdonalds and after a bit of searching we managed to find the resident drake Hooded Merganser along with his adopted local duck flock.There is some question as to where this cracking duck has originated,but he arrived as an immature after a westerly storm,so who knows,frankly i don't care.After watching this dapper duck i had a quick look through the local gull flock and managed to find a lovely 2nd winter Med Gull loafing on the car park,always great to see and a couple of Cetti's called from the adjacent scrub.We had heard that just down the road there had been a Glossy Ibis seen and sure enough after arriving at it's chosen flooded playing field we were treated to some great views as it probed for worms in the flooded ground,another great bird to add to the days sightings and only my second sighting of the species...things were going very well.After hitting all the targets in Dorset we had planned to travel over to neighbouring county Devon to pay the reported White-billed Diver a visit and taking in the hoped for Cirl Buntings on the way.After getting some great info from Wildlife Crimes Officer,PC Josh Marshall,we arrived at Broadsands car park on the outskirts of Brixham,quickly got the gear together and went to look for the Cirl's in their chosen feeding area.Within 5 minutes i was watching and photographing my first ever Cirl Buntings,fantastic stuff.At first the birds were a little nervy,but when they got used to us at least nine birds were watched flying down to feed on some seed placed out to supplement their winter feeding,this included 3 stunning males,what a cracking bird they are.After getting our fill of these beautiful Buntings we retraced our steps to a small pool and stream where we had seen several birders on arrival and then got cracking views of 2 'Tristis' and one 'Colybita' Chiffchaff as they sallied for flying insects around this small area giving us a great chance to study these wintering warblers,excellent stuff.Our final destination for the day was reached eventually, Brixham harbour and after finding out we were on the wrong side of the harbour we began to look for the WBD.After a bit of searching there it was in the middle of the harbour diving for food in a small flock of feeding birds which consisted of 3 Black-throated Diver,1 Great-northern Diver and a couple of Shags,this was just amazing to watch.The White-billed was a monster,dwarfing the Black-throats,with its distinct ivory coloured Banana of a bill and striking white chin,throat and front to it's neck,what a beauty.I had forgotten what a striking bird these divers are and how much bigger they are compared to the other members of the family,it certainly was a great privilege to catch up with one again.We spent a good couple of hours here and managed some impressive totals which included 15 Great-northern and 8 Black-throated Divers,at least 20 Shag and 6 Purple Sand,this coupled with the stunning scenery really brought a great end to a fantastic days birding and twitching.We all walked back to the car on a high after enjoying one of the best days i have ever had enjoying this fine hobby and so we began our long journey home.A big thankyou must go to Tim for the superb driving and the lads for some great company....what a day!!.
Record shot in poor light of the Brunnich's Guillemot at Portland Harbour.


Part of the 'Twitch' waiting for a certain Auk to appear.

Drake Hooded Merganser,Radipole Lake RSPB.

2nd winter Med. Gull,Radipole Lake RSPB.

Female Reed Bunting,Radipole Lake RSPB.


Male Cirl Bunting,Broadsands,Brixham,Devon.

Female Cirl Bunting,Broadsands,Brixham,Devon.

Cirl Buntings,Broadsands,Brixham,Devon.

Juvenile Shag,Brixham Harbour,Devon.

Distant record shot of the White-billed Diver,Brixham Harbour,Devon.

Roosting Purple Sandpiper,Brixham Harbour,Devon.

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