Saturday, 3 March 2018

A day in Dorset and Hampshire

Last Sunday (25th February) seems a long time ago now, but I've finally got round to a quick post about a splendid twitchy day with Jamie P and Dante. We set off at the rather amicable time of 6am from Rotherhithe, and after a lovely crisp winter's morning drive, arrived in a freezing cold Weymouth before 9am. Before we'd arrived, the target bird - an adult Ross's Gull - had already been seen at Lodmoor RSPB. But it hadn't been there for long, and just as we arrived, there was news that it had been found again at Ferrybridge...

So three or so miles of driving, through the winding streets of Weymouth, and we arrived at Ferrybridge to be greeted with 'it has just flown off over the shingle bank and out to sea'. As it was so early in the day, and knowing the afternoons seemed to be better anyway for this bird, I wasn't actually too fussed. And so we headed to Chesil Cove to have a scan of the bay, which was nicely sheltered from the easterly wind. Nothing there so we ventured to Radipole Lake RSPB, which is where the Ross's Gull had favoured the most the previous day. After an hour or so of waiting around, the adjacent golden arches were too much of a temptation, and so we all ventured in. Having just devoured my first Big Mac Grande (first ever, not of the day!), and with Dante midway through his and Jamie still waiting for his vegetarian thing, a phone call from Steve A said that the Ross's Gull was back! Literally 200 metres of frantic walking, McDonalds in hand, we all headed over and there it was - the adult Ross's Gull: -
Ross's Gull Radipole Lake RSPB, Dorset 25th February 2018
It was obviously a smart bird. With just a very slight pinkish hue and a subtle neck ring, its tiny bill gave it a nicely cute appearance as is always the case for the species. This was the sixth adult I'd seen in Britain and Ireland, and one of the best when it came to views. The crowd were enthralled, so much so that some parisitic local scrounger took it upon themselves to nick a scope from the crowd, and rode off with it on his bike!

There had obviously been a load of ringing having taken place in Weymouth, and I was able to get a couple of metal rings from birds in the car park at Radipole before the prize bird appeared: -
adult Herring Gull Radipole Lake RSPB, Dorset 25th February 2018 - ringed as a chick in Weymouth on 17th July 2006

adult Black-headed Gull Radipole Lake RSPB, Dorset 25th February 2018 - ringed as an adult at the same site on 31st October 2014
And with everyone happy, we headed off east and into the living cemetery of Christchurch. A lovely place it was, and with the sun shining at Stanpit Marsh, the 1st-winter Stilt Sandpiper was quickly located off Fisherman's Bank. Distant views but perfectly acceptable through the scope. A Polish ringed Black-headed Gull and a pukka breeding plumaged Mediterranean Gull showed a lot better on the near side of the creek: -
adult Mediterranean Gull Stanpit Marsh, Dorset 25th February 2018
With it getting towards the time for birds going to roost, we headed north twenty or so minutes to Ibsley Water, Hampshire to do the gulls coming in for the evening there. As we arrived in the hide, the regular adult Ring-billed Gull was already present and then next on the menu was a 2nd-winter Caspian Gull that piled in with other large gulls on islands to the left of the hide. And then twenty or so minutes later, I located the target bird in the same area, a well-watched juvenile 'Thayer's Gull'. Admittedly it was distant, but it felt at odds to what I'd have expected from this species/form and I'd have been inclined to have put it down as a Herring Gull if I'd seen it in London. An interesting one though, initially found by a birder who I've got a lot of respect for.

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