Thursday 29th. At last, a nice day, if still windy, encouraging us to walk the loop along the old railway and across the top of the ridge to the farm and back home. The exposed top was too blown-out to be of any interest, but the bottom of the valley was productive, including a Jay, a flock of about 80 Stock Doves, a party of 3 Chiffchaffs at the stream that runs alongside the track (another was on the farm) and, best of all, a Green Sandpiper that erupted noisily from some flooded bits of the adjacent fields.
Wednesday 28th. Well, the year seems to be ending pretty much as it began; mild with plenty of wind and rain. Hardly conducive to adding much to our ailing December list, you might have thought, but 2 Great Black-backs with the gulls across the road did just that.
Saturday Christmas Eve. Now I’m not saying that it has been wet recently, but the nine animals in the field behind us appear to be rain deer. I’ve not entirely worked out the factors that influence the appearance of gulls here; just as the light was beginning to fade around 4pm just over a hundred Common Gulls appeared on the field, stayed long enough for me to count them and then cleared off towards the coast. A few Med. Gulls were with them but we have yet to see the numbers that were turning up last winter.
Wednesday 21st. Having felt pretty knackered yesterday today was much better, so hopefully such a reaction will be short-term. It turned out to be a day for pre-Christmas stuff (I wonder why that would be?) which mainly involved as quick a fizz around Dorchester as possible for last-minute goodies and the herby ingredients for tonight’s jungle curry, which seems as good a point as any to add a photo of a Clipper, one of the butterflies we saw on our last trip to Thailand in December 2019.
Tuesday 20th. After two days of persistent rain and temperatures into double figures all of the Lapwings and Golden Plovers have disappeared from around us and the only addition to the month’s bird list was a Green Woodpecker that was yaffling from the old railway line.
Monday 19th. Another rainy and windy day, perfect for my first dose of immunotherapy at Dorchester Hospital. Thanks to Rachel Plant, the oncologist at Poole, squeezing me in this morning meant that I don’t have to wait until mid-January to begin treatment, which seems to have gone well, though I feel a bit tired.
Sunday 18th. It rained all day, accompanied by a very warm SSE wind, so there was little to tempt us outside. However, although football is not my favourite sport, the World Cup final between Argentina and France was terrific. Argentina led 2-0 with ten minutes left but France took it to extra time with ten minutes of Mbappe-inspired excellence and could have won it at 3-3 had it not been for a brilliant save by the Argentine goalie. Mbappe scored with France’s first penalty but Argentina were faultless and the rest of the French penalty takers were a bit rabbit-in-the-headlights and Argentina won the shootout 4-2. So, Leonardo Messi’s World Cup, and quite right too. Argentina is the country I most regret not visiting, so that will do just fine.
Saturday 17th. Although last night was very cold again the day steadily warmed and it looks like the early winter cold snap has got fed up with itself. It was a good opportunity to clean the filth off the car and while doing so 16 Golden Plovers became evident in the rape field behind the cottage; the first record of more than one here.
Friday 16th. Another bright, still morning with the thermometer struggling to poke its nose above freezing, ideal for watching some BBL cricket. It turned out to be the most amazing T20 game I’ve ever seen with Sydney Thunder, chasing 140 to win, bowled out for 15 by Adelaide Strikers. The Strikers’ quickie Henry Thornton finished with 5-2 from 2.5 overs. It was so absurd that a Chiffchaff was trying to watch the match from the washing line.
However, all of this was delaying the inevitable as we went off to Poole to see Dr Plant for the Full Monty on my condition and, to cut a long story short, it looks like immunotherapy might give me a little while longer but she was reluctant to suggest that more than 2-3 months is likely and I start treatment in Dorchester Hospital on Monday.
Monday 12th. Little more than a week ago I was bemoaning the lack of avian variety after the mild autumn and early winter weather but now we are surrounded by fog-draped ridges and frost-covered fields dotted with occasional Redwings and small parties of Lapwings. In fact, in the time it has taken to type theses three lines the fog has descended into the valley and looks in no mood to go anywhere. A Raven cronking in the murk was another addition for the month.
Sunday 11th. This morning the Lapwing flock was on the field behind the cottage, accompanied on this occasion by a lone Golden Plover. With ice still on the lanes around us we beetled off to Ferrybridge, where the streets and rooftops were coated in a light covering of snow. Birding was fairly predictable but an Eider in Portland Harbour was another Dorset tick for both of us.
Saturday 10th. Just as the first cup of tea was being poured a flock of 68 Lapwings flopped on to the frost-covered field across the road; the first here this year and an obvious result of the current cold spell.
Wednesday 7th. So, having scraped ice from the windscreen for the first time this winter, we were pulling out of the driveway on to the road on the way to Bournemouth to discuss liver surgery when my phone rang. Apparently my PET scan was discussed yesterday at the Trust’s MDP meeting and it was decided that surgery is no longer appropriate and that systemic treatment will be necessary. Rachel Plant (Poole oncology) is currently on leave and will be back on Monday, her secretary will endeavour to fit me in sometime next week and until then I will need to luxuriate in the knowledge that I won’t be sliced up, but with the spectre of chemicals waiting in the wings. At least there is no football to watch today; after Spain v Morocco yesterday afternoon I don’t think I can take another like it, though it sounds like Portugal beating Switzerland 6-1 in the evening was a good laugh, particularly as Ronaldo was relegated to the substitutes’ bench and his replacement scored a hat-trick. Now, with the day to ourselves, we drove to Weymouth where, in addition to a bit of shopping, we took a walk around Radipole. It was nice to find the café has reopened and even nicer to hear that a male Goldeneye was visible from the car park; a Dorset tick for both of us! Karen also saw a Bearded Tit, but that’s one I need to go back for. The cold snap seems to be shuffling the pack a bit; there were several Song Thrushes on the fields and in the lanes this morning and a Little Egret flew across the valley in mid-afternoon.
Sunday 4th. From a birding point of view, things feel rather flat, with very little sign of change in spite of the current cold spell. Autumn was much warmer than usual and migration here was very low key, with no Bramblings or Siskins and low numbers of thrushes, pipits and larks. The influx of Fieldfares in late October appears to have moved on and a flurry of Lapwings near the end of Cheese Lane yesterday was the first of the winter. However, a Little Owl was yelping as we walked home from the farm after dark.
Friday 2nd. It has turned wintry over the last two days, with a gathering easterly airflow keeping values in single figures by day and not much above freezing at night. Although there has been little of avian interest our treat this evening was a Barn Owl flapping over the fields ta the end of Cheese Lane, though it was probably searching for something more rodent-like.