Sunday, 5 November 2017

St Aldhelm comes up trumps

So after our trip to Northumberland, we came back and planned a few quiet days at the start of the holiday. However, with news from Blithfield of a Staffs tick for Hilda's nephew on Monday 16th, we were soon off on our travels again.

The Grey Phalarope was performing well off the dam, and proved an easy subject for a videoman of Lord Lichfield's standards.

And so the following day, Tuesday 17th October we again planned to do nothing and we hoped something would turn up later in the week. The day started off well with a fly over Hawfinch at Westport. We went back home, only for news to appear late afternoon of a LEACH'S PETREL at Chasewater. News was vague but we screamed down, knowing that it was a race against the fading light. Confusion reigned as to where the bird was until I managed to contact Graham, Lord of Blithfield who was on site watching it. We made it with about fifteen minutes of light left (we did use the M6 toll or else we just wouldn't have made it). It was amazing to see the Leach's Petrel flying all over the place, usually with a flock of 30+ BHG's constantly chasing it. Again another county tick for the St Helen's kid (he's got a bigger Billinge and district list than you but does he brag about it - well of course he does).

Lord Lichfield did well to get this video with very little light left .

And then news reached us of another bird for us to go and see. It was none stop birding and this was the reason why we had chosen to have this fortnight off. In Dorset, there was a Two-barred Greenish Warbler and a trip was planned the following day. Unfortunately with work commitments, no one else was able to join us. 

We arrived on site, parked in the field and walked down to join the crowd overlooking St Aldhelm's Quarry. We had been led to believe the bird was showing every 20 mins or so. But this was just not the case. It was a cold, damp day and it was keeping well tucked in. Eventually when we worked out the best place, we had brief fleeting glimpses of it. It was also incredibly active, and made a YBW look inactive. Over a period of about half hour, we finally had decent views as it lingered in one particular area. A nice second tick of the year and a nice bird to see.

Unfortunately, Lord Lichfield stood no chance with this one, but I did manage some photo's.

This was the best place to see it. More sheltered here

Spot the 2bar Greenish (its just a shot of the bush actually but of course you can look for it. Ain't on the photo though)
Having seen a Firecrest as well, we headed off to do some more birding. We had a brief look for a DARTFORD WARBLER and then spent sometime in the hide looking for the STILT SANDPIPER. Some big birders were in the hide with us, and they were making claims that they could see the roosting, sleeping wader in long grass behind the other waders. We weren't convinced and after an hour or so and when everything was flushed and there was still no sign of it we headed off. 

On the way back to the car we spotted some good DARTFORD ish habitat, and a little walk around the area and bingo

The "Lich" nailed this one
Then it was off to Lodmoor. A nice walk around the whole reserve saw us eventually find the Lesser Yellowlegs, along with a few Little Stints and a GWE.

My video this time!

And we though that was it. Until we saw that the RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER was still on Portland Bill. We knew the name of the quarry, and we found it on a map and we found the site. But it was an access road to a huge working quarry. I wandered up the track and met an wonderful elderly gentleman. I asked him if he'd seen anything to which he replied "Well yes", but he'd lost sight of it and was walking around to find it. This bloke was possibly in his 80's, and took me to the small copse where his wife (who used two sticks) was watching the Red-breasted Flycatcher flitting around. As I walked in, he pointed out every stone that I could trip over and made sure I kept on my feet as we walked in. What a gent.

This marvellous helpful gentleman is awarded the coveted Honorary member of the Clayheads.
Lord Lich moaned about the colour of leaves and the fact that it was late afternoon on a dull day, but I think that's the best time to watch a classic autumnal Red-breasted Fly.

Portland Bill R B Fly by "Lich"
Last bird of the day were three Black Redstarts feeding along a fence at the Great Spotted Cuckoo site. It had been an awesome days birding.

And so on with the rest of the holiday. We did this Dorset trip on the first Wednesday, leaving us with another week and a half to go. But unfortunately this is where the story ends. We actually, apart from visiting Westport, we haven't been out birding since. We did have some cracking days viz migging at Westport seeing another Hawfinch and an amazing flock of 62 Barnacle Geese over.

An amazing flock of 62 Barnacle Geese over Westport. Slimbridge bound? 
Its now November, and autumn has simply dried up. And so until the east wind blows, its goodbye for now in this strange Autumn 2017.