A combination of a busy January and February followed by the lockdown meant that my first Portland visit of 2020 was not until almost the middle of June. The main reason for going was to fill some gaps in the year-list. Both myself and Ian went but in separate cars. Not particularly environmentally friendly but unfortunately the only way it could be done. We met on Salisbury Plain where not much was seen before heading to Portland via Martin Down. No sight or sound of Turtle Dove here unfortunately. A quick look in at Ferrybridge got us Little Tern and Mediterranean Gull but, other than Oystercatcher no waders. With the Obs being shut we had to pay to park in the main car park which hurt a bit. All but one of the hoped for birds were seen, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Razorbill and Common Scoter but over a couple of hours we didn’t manage to find a Puffin.
Having checked out some Starling flocks and not finding a Rosy we headed off to a housing estate in Weymouth where one had been around for a couple of days. After parking the cars and a short walk we soon found the birds favoured garden. AFter watching a flyover Marsh Harrier from nearby Radipole we started to look for the Starling and within a couple of minutes it flew into view alighting in a Pear Tree before flying to a garden fence and then down into the garden Not my favourite type of birding but the locals were pretty friendly so we didn’t feel to uncomfortable.
After twenty minutes or so of several great views we left and moved onto Radipole. Plenty going on here with a good number of species added to the day-list including some Bearded Tits. The planned stop on Salisbury Plain on the way home seemed in doubt when we ran into heavy rain but luckily it cleared and we arrived on the Plain in the dry. Heading off-road along one of our regular tracks I saw a Curlew standing in the middle of the track. I stopped and wound down the window to take some pictures and was pretty chuffed to hear a Quail calling. Our main target bird found with absolutely no effort. It sounded really close but as usual wasn’t seen. Other birds seen include Skylark, Corn and Red Bunting and to finish off a good day Stone Curlew.
We fancied having a walk somewhere new today and chose Morgans Hill just outside of Calne. I have no idea why this site hasn’t been visited before as it is very nice and reasonably local. We spent a pleasamt three hours or so here seeing all the expected downland birds and a good selection of butterflies and orchids.
We should have been spending the last few days in Croatia but obviously that didn’t happen. I was going to cancel my holiday from work but decided to keep it and have a couple of days out from home. On Monday my Wife and I went to the Forest of Dean. It wasn’t a birding trip so it was a case of any birds seen were a bonus. We started with a walk along the Severn from Lydney Harbour. Always interesting here but especially so at low-tide and fortunately when we got there it was indeed low-tide. I find it fascinating to see all of the channels in the mud and the variety of items exposed when the water is not there. From here we drove to Symonds Yat East. our usual walk here starts by crossing the river on the hand ferry then walking downstream to recross via the Biblins Suspension Bridge. We found that this is also closed due to flood damage from earlier in the year. However we still had a good walk on the east bank which included a circular walk around the perimeter of Lady Park Wood. Not a great amount of birds seen but the highlight was seeing two Peregrines flying around at Symonds Yat.
On Tuesday the original plan was to make my first visit of the year to Portland but I changed my mind late on Monday evening and instead decided to go to Keyhaven. I left home at 05:30 and following a quick stop on Salisbury Plain which got me good views of Stone Curlew and Yellow Wagtail I arrived at Keyhaven around two hours later. It was a lovely morning with a clear sky and what was soon to become, as the temperature rose, a pleasant cooling breeze. A family group of Stonechats were seen in the Gorse at the start of the walk along with a couple of Dartford Warblers. The latter gave good views but I wasn’t able to get any pictures of them. The main reason for this is that I have new glasses which are photochromatic. Most of the time these are great, however in bright sunshine when at their maximum tint they make it almost impossible to use either the viewfinder or the screen of the camera, it is literally like shooting in the dark. The harbour and the lagoons supplied a steady stream of good birds with the highlight being a good number of Avocets with lots of young. The daylist steadily grew and as I was scanning Fishlake Lagoon I heard the pinging of Bearded Tits and was pleased to get really good views of a group of five foraging in the tops of the reeds. This was bettered on Pennington Lagoon when two Little Terns flew in and started to feed before one flew back out to the Solent while the other landed on a shingle bank allowing superb close views. Other highlights were a flock of almost a hundred Blackwits although they weren’t doing much, a Peregrine out on the Salt-march and a Marsh Harrier that was soon chased off by a number of Avocets when it drifted too close to their young. In all I managed fifty-five species.
On the way home I spent a bit more time on Salisbury Plain adding another twenty-five species to the list. The best birds here were a Tree Pipit and a couple of heard only Groppers along with the usual supporting cast of small birds and raptors. The only real miss here was the hoped for Quail. A Chinook was also good to see.
So an excellent day out ended with seventy-one species seen which included three year-ticks.
Other highlights of the last few days have been a good few juvenile Starlings, the return of general aviation to the skies and someexcellent astronomical sightings on the many clear nights (the moon, ISS and various other satellites and a couple of planets).