January 2022

Sunday 30th. Off to Poole Hospital this morning for an MRI scan on my head and neck, which with all the tuneless clanking and bashing was a bit like listening to Radio 1 for the best part of an hour. Once that was over and done with we treated ourselves to a visit to Chapel Hill above Abbotsbury Swannery with young Ben next door, seeing a Short-eared Owl more or less as soon as we arrived, though the large number of walkers on a calm, sunny afternoon seemed to put them off a subsequent appearance. Also of note were a Cattle Egret on the hill with some cows, a female type Marsh Harrier and a Raven.

Friday 28th. Off on the 0715 train to Christchurch for the first in a series of investigations into possible causes of my eye problem, we were thrown slightly by rearrangement of the timetable which made us change at Bournemouth, then by a phone call just ten minutes away from the hospital to say that owing to the consultant’s son testing positive for Covid the clinic had been cancelled! All ended well, however, as anyone on their way was to be seen by another member of the dermatology team and, to cut a long story short, all was well.

So, we took a late morning train to Southampton, then on to Bath where we arrived in the early afternoon. Liz and Sarah arrived not long after 2 and after checking in at the Travelodge near the Circle, we met for a couple of beers in the Saracens Head, prior to heading for a meal in Jus Mezze and then to the Rec. for the game against Harlequins, last season’s champions. Although Bath had sneaked past Worcester in their last game it was far from convincing and having lost 11 of their 12 games so far this season there was some trepidation about the likely outcome of this match. However, they had signed Nathan Hughes on loan from Bristol and his presence not only galvanised the team but the crowd as well and Bath ran out deserved 21-17 winners. The sense of joy and relief as the ball went into touch at the end was overwhelming, both for the players and the crowd and as we chatted to Steve and Lisa Ojomoh after the game there was a real sense of elation at a result and performance that seemed impossible only a week ago. Brilliant atmosphere and an equally brilliant result.

Wednesday 26th. Things have become almost completely becalmed in the recent settled weather, but our feeding station continues to attract plenty of presumably local birds, the latest of which was Long-tailed Tit, feeding at the fat balls this morning. On the negative side we’ve had to remove the lower tray as a rat was perched on it earlier!

Sunday 23rd. We stopped at Sandsfoot Castle where at least 7 Black-necked Grebes and a Slavonian Grebe were in the harbour, then went to Portland Bill which was very quiet, with few seabirds moving in the barest SE breeze. Home for lunch, then a visit to Chapel Hill, just to the west of Abbotsbury Swannery, where yesterday a dog-walker told us that 2 Short-eared Owls could be seen hunting every afternoon. So, over a couple of stiles, across two fields and there they were, ghosting over the fields below us, between the hill and the reeds bordering the Fleet.

Friday 21st. Karen managed to finish work in time to take a drive to Ferrybridge and although the tide was low when we arrived we did find at least one Black-necked Grebe in the harbour. We still had time to drive back to Abbotsbury in search of the Cattle Egrets that have taken up residence in the valley somewhere and although we failed to find where they feed a party of 21 flew in to roost, more or less on the dot of 4 pm.

Thursday 20th. An hour birding from the cottage in bright, calm and frosty conditions was the best yet for mammals, with sightings of a superb dog fox, 4 Roe Deer and 5 Brown Hares. Birding was also productive, with totals of 54 Redwings, 32 Fieldfares, 3 Song Thrushes and a Mistle Thrush, mainly on the very attractive-looking field of stubble across the road (assuming you’re a thrush), plus 2 Chiffchaffs, our first Green Woodpecker of the year and a Yellowhammer in the garden hedge.

Monday 17th. A bright, calm winter day that was taken up with shopping and other stuff. Still, it gave us a chance to appreciate our snowdrops in the lovely sunshine.

Snowdrops in the garden

Sunday 16th was dull but a good deal less gloomy and, having seen few waders so far this year, we decided to visit Lytchett Bay on the outskirts of Poole. The tide was up when we arrived but despite that we found a roosting flock of Avocets and Redshanks, a Curlew in the saltmarsh and two or three distant but vocal Greenshanks. 2 Marsh Harriers got up from the reed bed and a superb male Merlin dashed across the bay, low over the water, and deliberately put the roosting waders to flight. Greenfinch, Coal Tit and Nuthatch were in the woodland at the edge of the bay and from a viewing platform in the reeds we added Reed Bunting to complete a very enjoyable morning.

Lytchett Bay

Saturday 15th. Unlike the last three days it was a grey, damp and chilly day to continue our exploration of Dorset’s wildlife sites at the Morden Bog section of Wareham Forest, but at least it was calm. For wildlife it was pretty quiet, even for winter, though we did stumble across a Dartford Warbler and a small party of 3-4 Redpolls chuntered off from pines near the decoy pond. In truth we misread the directions in the guide book and took the short loop rather than the more extensive one, but that’s a god excuse to come back.

Morden Bog, Wareham Forest

Wednesday 12th. Well, yesterday’s trip to Moorfields for further examination of my eye ended with more questions than answers, so it’s back to Bournemouth for more tests, by the look of it. As for this morning, our new feeding station has really got going, buzzing with Great and Blue Tits, Robins and Chaffinches, while 2 Chiffchaffs were fiddling about by the pond.

Sunday 9th. Our first surprise this morning was a Little Egret, mooching around in the field behind us, then a Yellowhammer in the hedgerow. We drove to Ferrybridge in lovely sunshine, where Skylark was new for the year and 19 Red-breasted Mergansers were feeding frantically offshore, though apart from the usual godwits no waders were to be seen. On to Portland, where offshore movement was much the same as a few days ago but a flock of 11 Purple Sandpipers were doing their best to dodge the splashes from the swell that remained from yesterday’s storm. Next we stopped at Ferrybridge for a late brunch, after a brief look at the harbour which was notable only for someone swimming in the sea, which gave me hypothermia just thinking about it. Replete, we moved on to Lodmoor where 3 Black-tailed Godwits and a superb white-headed Ruff were fiddling about at the back of the reserve, a Marsh Harrier cruised by and Wigeon and Kingfisher were also new for the year. A quick stop off at Gould’s to buy some food for our new bird feeder and off home for a nice cup of tea. A very pleasant day.

Wednesday 5th. At last, a real winter day! A clear sky overnight, the first for ages, allowed the temperature to drop to below 2°C and the resultant frost came as no surprise. After visiting my GP for a shingles jab I spent 40 minutes in the garden in calm conditions with bright sunshine. Although it continues to be fairly quiet 24 Fieldfares and 4 Redwings erupted from the hedgerows early on and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was making itself noisily evident. Not to be outdone, our first couple of snowdrops were shaking their heads in the sunshine.

Tuesday 4th. At last, today was the day for fitting of our EV charge point, which meant a day indoors while the installer went through the laborious process of connecting everything together: not easy in an old cottage like this. Birding from home has been pretty quiet since the turn of the year, but a superb male Sparrowhawk perched on the fencing around the field opposite was without doubt the home highlight of the year so far.

Monday 3rd. Having added Redwing to our garden list a leisurely morning took us along the back road above Abbotsbury Swannery, where we added Canada Goose, Pintail, Shoveler and Lapwing. Being credulous creatures, we thought that a visit to the Subtropical Gardens would be a good idea, but found it crammed with Bank Holiday visitors, though we did find at least 3 Coal Tits amid the din.

Sunday 2nd. In windy and grey conditions we opted for Powerstock Common as a better bet than anywhere near the coast. The old railway was reasonably sheltered and it was only when we climbed to the more exposed top of the common that it felt windy. Even so, we found 25 or so Redpolls in the alders, plus 15-20 Siskins lower down, 3-4 Nuthatches, a Treecreeper, at least one Marsh Tit, several Bullfinches, a Grey Wagtail and an overflying Raven. We also had the place pretty much to ourselves until visitors began to arrive as we walked back to the car.

The old railway at Powerstock Common

Saturday 1st. Our 2022 Year Listing started in damp conditions with a frisky SW wind, though it was mostly dry when we started at Sandsfoot Castle. Here we added Chiffchaff, Shag, Kittiwake, Gannet and Red-breasted Merganser before moving on to Ferrybridge where a Black Brant was with the usual Brent Goose flock. Portland Bill was our next stop, where hundreds of Guillemots and Razorbills were pouring past in light rain and to round off a nice start to the year we stopped off at Radipole for our first visit, only 8 months after moving down! Although we saw little more than the usual suspects they did include Goldcrest, Cetti’s Warbler, Water Rail and Sparrowhawk, plus a moderate selection of wildfowl.

Portland Bill, looking towards Pulpit Rock