Monday 28th. This morning’s treat was a three hour wait in Poole Hospital for Karen’s mum to have a blood test, not helped by them not expecting her in the first place. Inspection of the moth trap had to wait until late morning but despite nothing actually in the trap a Dotted Border was clinging to the outside: our first Dorset record of a species we recorded only twice in Kent.
Sunday 27th. We started rather late but still enjoyed an hour and a half on the cliffs at Weston on Portland, bumping into Jack Oughton for a chat on our way north to the coombe that looks south along the coast, sheltered from the SE breeze. Apart from the obligatory Stonechat a Peregrine was perched on the clifftop and several Fulmars were wheeling about offshore in the sunshine.
Saturday 26th. Although spring and summer are the best times to visit, we had a very pleasant walk around the DWT reserve at King Barrow Quarries on the north of Portland. A pair of Stonechats followed us around for a while and Robins were all over the place but we saw no sign of the resident Little Owls. However, it was very pleasant to be out and about in some almost spring-like sunshine. As for our moths, it was cold last night, down to 2.1°C, and our reward was just 2 Hebrew Characters. The afternoon was taken up with a magnificent French side outplaying Scotland at Murrayfield then the England v Wales match at Twickenham which the hosts just about won. However, it was approximately as enjoyable as a visit to the dentist and if England aspire to be the best in the world they have a distance to go.
Wednesday 23rd. Although last night was clear and the temperature fell to 2.6°C it was calm enough to run the moth trap and our reward this morning consisted of 2 Hebrew Characters and our earliest ever Early Thorn; a species we never recorded before May back in Kent. Half an hour birding from the garden prior to visiting the dentist was notable for the first 3 Skylarks for well over a month, along with the usual suspects.
Tuesday 22nd. As anticipated, Storm Eunice arrived on Friday with winds gusting to a shuddering 90 mph, kicking us off the internet in the process. However, power here was unaffected, though at the farm the supply was restored only yesterday afternoon. Weather this morning was much improved, though it remained very breezy. 2 Mistle Thrushes added themselves to February’s avian total but the best news of all is that our internet came back this afternoon. Hooray! The old bat Eunice and her acolytes did for my appointment at Moorfields yesterday, courtesy of Storm Franklin that resulted in all trains from Dorset to London being cancelled. The main bit of news amid this seven days of vileness came on Sunday when a Moorhen waltzed across the garden, making itself species #84 for the cottage.
Thursday 17th. Well, we escaped unscathed from the effects of Storm Dudley which brought winds of 59 mph last night, but with Storm Eunice to come tomorrow with significantly stronger winds we aren’t out of the woods yet. On a brighter note, today appears to be a window of relative calm in a week of vileness and one interesting aspect of the last few days is that Lesser Black-backs have been appearing on the fields. We’ve only seen one or two individuals each day but at least five have been involved; mostly grey-backed graellsii types but with one black-backed intermedius, suggesting that some early spring movement might be afoot.
An afternoon visit to Lodmoor was rewarded with a Spoonbill and a Marsh Harrier, while the white Ruff was still there and back at home 7 Lesser Black-backs were on the winter wheat: 5 grey-backed graellsii and 2 intermedius.
Monday 14th. After yesterday’s gales and persistent rain, half an hour in the garden was a good deal more pleasant and quite productive, with Sparrowhawk new for the month and Linnet the first of the year. There were also 12 Goldfinches, so perhaps some passage is imminent. 2 Canada Geese on the winter wheat were doing their best to be interesting, a word that might be more appropriate to the weather later this week.
Sunday 13th. We awoke to an overcast morning with a southerly wind beginning to rack up towards gale force. The main effect of this was to deposit a whopping 430 Common Gulls on one of the fields to the west of us. While this isn’t a rare species here the largest numbers we have recorded so far have been 57 in December 2021 and 71 on January 8th this year. The Common Gulls disappeared around 8am but 154 Med. Gulls appeared in heavy rain around 11am.
Saturday 12th. Hot news is that we appear to be in the process of being adopted by a mystery cat. He (we assume) first appeared after dark about three weeks ago and was discovered outside the patio doors, with Georgie under the garden table, neither appearing particularly concerned about the situation. He has steadily become bolder and spent much of this morning in the cat bed in the porch and although we disturbed him more than once he kept coming back to have a nap. He looks well fed but nobody locally seems to know where he has come from, though he has been seen up at the farm, so he gets about a bit. We also had a Red-legged Partridge in the garden for the first time.
Friday 11th. Probably the hardest frost of the winter this morning, which isn’t saying much, and 45 minutes birding from the garden in cloudless, calm conditions was as spring-like as it has been thus far. 2 Song Thrushes were singing, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming briefly and Green Woodpeckers were calling from two separate places.
Karen finished work in time to pay a visit to Lodmoor, where we arrived in calm sunshine at 3.45. A Kingfisher gave superb views on one of the posts near the track, around 30 Snipe and 19 Black-tailed Godwits were scattered about, a Raven flew over, Green Sandpiper was new for the year and the white headed Ruff was still present.
Tuesday 8th. Leaving and returning home in darkness to get to Moorfields for a biopsy on my eye the mood of the day was elevated at both ends by a Barn Owl in the headlights between Friar Waddon and Upwey. The operation apparently went well, though my street cred will have been severely damaged by the plastic hair net and eye patch; in like Ena Sharples and out like Captain Pugwash!
Monday 7th. We spent an enjoyable couple of hours yesterday afternoon in Upwey Church listening to Solem Quartet playing Bartók and Beethoven on cello, violin and viola, again sponsored by the charity Concerts in the West. This morning’s entertainment started with 45 minutes in the garden in bright sunshine, during which 3 Mallards and 17 Canada Geese appeared over Tatton ridge opposite, Grey Wagtail and 2 Chiffchaffs were tiddling about and a Small Tortoiseshell fluttered up the front wall of the cottage; our first butterfly of the year.
Saturday 5th. The first afternoon of this year’s Six Nations started off with a resounding 29-7 win for a very impressive Ireland at home to Wales in Dublin. On this form they are going to be very hard to beat, even at the highest level. Then it was time for the Calcutta Cup match at Murrayfield, which turned out to be as frustrating an England performances can be with lots of scurrying about to no great effect. In the end Scotland came out winners by 3 points but frankly it was pretty poor fare after the Ireland game.
Wednesday 2nd. Last night was quite mild, down to 8.1°C, and although it was quite windy we decided to try the moth trap for the first time this year, our reward being a Hebrew Character. An hour’s birding from the garden turned up 33 species, including Chiffchaff, Grey Wagtail, 170 Med. Gulls flying from roost first thing, 5 Red-legged Partridges, 9 Fieldfares, 46 Redwings and, unrecorded in January, 4 Stock Doves and a Greenfinch. Our bird feeding station continues to be busy, with 4 Long-tailed Tits on the fat balls at one point and Goldfinch nearly adding itself to the list of species using the feeders but being put off by a Great Tit. The afternoon was rounded off quite nicely by a Cattle Egret that flew across the valley from the north then turned and flew west towards Portesham.