Life has been pretty busy over the last few months and the blog has been one of the things that has fallen by the wayside. So this is an attempt to get things back on track. I shall try and do a catch up soon but in the meantime here is a look back at the last few days.
I was working on Saturday with a drive down to the New Forest to visit family when I finished. Fortunately I managed to finish at half-ten and as the rest of the family had driven down in the morning I had a bit of unexpected free-time. The Weymouth Little Auk sprang to mind as it was sort of on the way to Verwood from Swindon! I had a good drive down and parked at the Swannery car park. I gambled that two hours parking would be enough and headed for the harbour. There were plenty of birders around but all had the same thing to say, “it was very elusive” not what I wanted to hear. It was decision time, stay around where it was last seen or have a wander downstream to the lifeboat station. I chose the latter which turned out to be a mistake as it was seen again around the boats in the inner harbour. I spent another hour or so in that area and it was getting closer and closer to expiry of car park ticket time. I then spent some time trying to reactivate my Justpark app while keeping an eye on the harbour. I couldn’t sort the app but did manage to find the Little Auk as it broke cover and crossed an open channel. I managed three brief views totalling about ten seconds before it disappeared again. And unfortunately that was it but at least I had found it myself. To celebrate my thirteenth lifer of the year I treated myself to tea and cake at Craigs Farm Dairy in Osmington before heading to Verwood. Sunday was spent with the family and we walked a section of the South West Coast path. We started from Worth Matravers and did a circular walk to Chapmans Pool, St Aldhelms Head, Winspit Quarry and back. An absolutely stunning walk and makes me determiined to do some proper walking along this coast. There wasn’t a lot of birding done but a few Gannets, a couple of Ravens and plenty of Stonechats were seen.
On Monday morning I did a circular walk from home, along the railway path then up onto the Ridgeway to Liddington Castle and home again. About five miles and again it was more walking than birds. Meadow Pipits and Red Kites were all that I really noted. I was heading up to see my Mum and my Sister who was over from France in the afternoon and while I was eating my lunch I checked Birdguides to see if there was anything worth looking at on the way up. A drake long-tailed Duck at Staines had been reported so that was where I headed. On arrival I could see a small group of birders gathered at the top of the slope and a quick walk up and the usual is it still around? got the answer “yes and showing well”. The good thing at Staines is that there are plenty of Landmarks on the horizon and so I was soon able to get on the bird. I watched it for about five minutes before it flew, fortunately it came directly towards us and landed around a hundred metres away. It then drifted closer and ended up no more than thirty metres or so away giving superb views in the late afternoon light.
I stayed at Mums overnight and first thing my Sister and I set of for Bushy Park where we were hoping to get Dartford Warbler. We arrived just after the gates opened at eight and parked in the Pheasantry car park. It was a lovely morning with clear blue skies and quite a heavy frost. We headed for the bracken along Cobblers Walk but had no luck with the Dartford so then moved to the South East corner beyond the ponds. After several false alarms we eventually we got lucky and had brief but good views of a single Dartford. My first for the year and for the London area. A few Stonechat were seen along with twenty-three other species. The best of the rest was a Treecreeper which was the nice for my sister to add to her year list to go with her usual garden Short-toed version. We also saw plenty of deer including a striking white male.