Monday 30th. Monday is our shopping day, so there was not much time for enjoying the first day this winter when spring felt a little closer. The sun was a bit stronger, the light less harsh and the absence of wind allowed the day to feel less unforgiving. A pair of Red-legged Partridges in the field behind us were the first this year.
Friday 27th. In overcast, damp and cold conditions, though with little wind, we visited Powerstock Common this morning. We found Marsh and Coal Tits without too much effort, added Great Spotted Woodpecker in the lower bits of the wood, heard a solitary flyover Siskin and got Jay by the skin of our teeth as we drove away from the reserve. In truth it was all rather quiet.
Thursday 26th. Very little of note has been happening as the weather continues to be cold, calm and frosty, enhanced yesterday by a cloak of fog that lasted into the afternoon. Today a bright start gave way to an overcast and gloomy afternoon, during which 25-30 Lapwings were flopping about in assorted directions, but mainly eastwards down the valley. Our plan to walk along the Weston cliffs on Portland in the afternoon was thwarted by an incident in Wyke involving fire engines and police cars. Given that it was in the middle of the road a cat seemed unlikely to have caused the chaos but nevertheless we diverted to the Nothe where Black Redstart evaded us but our first Goldcrest of the year was messing about in the gardens.
Friday 20th. As we were waiting to head off to Radipole just after 11 at least 84 Lapwings and 23 Golden Plovers flew W overhead. Radipole was very enjoyable, with Bearded Tit my second new species for Dorset in two days and Pochard and Greenfinch new for the year, all in lovely sunshine with barely a breath of wind.
Thursday 19th. A beautiful winter morning; clear, crisp and calm. Our first stop was at Portland Bill (photograph below) where literally thousands of Guillemots and Razorbills were streaming past, accompanied by Gannets, Kittiwakes, Shags and assorted gulls. We managed to find one Purple Sandpiper with a small gang of Turnstones, then headed off to Ferrybridge where Ringed Plover was new for the year, despite the selfish behaviour of two doggers who apparently deliberately flushed everything despite having been asked by the warden not to do so. However, across the road in excellent light, we found 4 Black-necked Grebes, 3 Eider, including a smart adult drake and 3 Great Northern Divers, two of which were floating about with a Black-throated Diver at one point. A very enjoyable few hours.
Wednesday 18th. A bright and icy start to the day was somewhat misleading as dark clouds appeared in the west, followed by sleet and then snow, though it was pretty wet stuff that didn’t stick around, except on the higher ground to the NW. Having been scarce so far this year, 18 Song Thrushes were bouncing about in the field behind us, clearly having been moved on from somewhere by the cold snap. With the sleet having cleared we headed for Sandsfoot Castle, adding a couple of year ticks and getting good views of Great Northern Diver. Here’s the view, looking east from the castle grounds.
Monday 16th. More heavy rain fell last night but with the mercury down to 1.4°C some must have fallen as snow, producing a light covering on the hills to the east. As if to convince us that we’re not in a spell of proper winter weather the snowdrops in our garden are in flower and daffodils are beginning to show around Poundbury as we headed to Dorchester for my second dose of immunotherapy, which went without any obvious hitches, but with several digestive biscuits, which nearly rhymes.
Saturday 14th. It rained heavily overnight but had got the worst out of its system by morning, although it remained very windy. This was a good excuse to spend it slobbing about and watching an excellent performance by Leinster against Gloucester on the telly.
Friday 13th. It remains fairly windy, but less so than in the last few days, so we drove to Lodmoor where Golden Plover and a young male Marsh Harrier were new for the year. Although our wildfowl list for 2023 took a notable upturn, the rest on offer amounted to little more than the usual suspects. We spent the evening in the enjoyable company of the jazzy Moscow Drug Club in Portesham village hall and remarkably found ourselves sitting next to Jack Oughton’s parents, who we’ve not previously met. The realisation came about after a chance remark about Coryates and wildlife, prompting them to twig that we are the couple Jack has treated with some rare moths since we moved down here.
Tuesday 3rd – Sunday 8th. The journey up to Kent was fairly uneventful from the point of view of bird sightings, but in a case of quality over quantity we saw a Great White Egret and a Little Egret at some flooded fields just inside the Hampshire border and a Red Kite as we entered Kent at last. We added several species on the 4th when we met Steffan and Becky on Worth, though nothing was particularly outstanding, the main point of the day being a meal at Namaste outside Dover with Chris Cox and Pam and Mark and Lucy Love. However, a visit to Pegwell to catch the falling tide of the 5th was excellent, with loads of birds and a sunny and calm day on which to enjoy them. Highlights included a Sandwich Tern, Yellow-legged Gull and a really good selection of waders. Our next jaunt was to the Thanet coast with Martin and Sona where we found a superb Great Northern Diver, 4 Purple Sandpipers and a couple of Eider at the Foreness outfall. The best day of the week, if a bit emotionally draining, was at Sandwich Bay where I walked around with Roger and Keith, Steffan, Andrew, Martin and, for part of the way, Neil Davies. 2 Little Gulls were with the Black-heads behind the scrape, a Tree Sparrow and a Cattle Egret were at the Observatory, we flushed a Short-eared Owl from Cinque Ports’ rough and 4 Grey Partridges were nearby, which we are highly unlikely to find in Dorset. Here’s a nostalgic photo from my days at SBBO showing Alastair Henderson, Martin Sutherland, Roger Thompson, Keith Ellis, Steffan Walton and some geezer pretending to seawatch. Behind the camera was Andrew Lipczynski. Happy days.
Sunday 1st. A bright and breezy introduction to the New Year persuaded to take Phil along the old Portesham to Abbotsbury railway. It was a good deal quieter than our previous visit in autumn but a flock of 23 Cattle Egrets was in the fields close to Portesham, a Cetti’s Warbler was singing half way along and a couple of Bullfinches flew from some scrub below.