Green Sandpiper on Farlington Marshes this morning.

Sunday 1st March 2015.

The water level on the Lake was high this morning.

Would there be our first proper Spring migrant of the year on Farlington Marshes this morning? The answer was simply, no; but there was still a lot of birds preparing for Spring, which included displaying Meadow Pipits, Lapwings ‘tumbling’ over the fields and Skylarks overhead in full song. The morning kicked off bright and sunny at first, but then the cloud rolled in and as we were leaving after our walk around the reserve, the sun reappeared again; though there was a strong blustery wind blowing to keep the temperature down.

Brent Geese and Teal at the reserve entrance.

A pair of Pintail in front of the small island near the reserve entrance.

I met John Goodall at the reserve car park entrance at 8am and it was good to catch up with him for a chat, as I haven’t seen him for a while. By the reserve entrance, there were around a 100 Brent Geese feeding on the eel grass on the rising tide, along with a few Mallard and Teal. A pair of Pintail were swimming near the small island, but little else of note upon it. I was hoping for a Greenshank or two, but no diamonds there. We couldn’t see the Avocets in the harbour near the Eastern Road Bridge, but they were probably hiding on the saltmarsh there.

A pair of Pintail flying out into the harbour.

Three Reed Buntings rose from the grass below us and perched up in a bramble, as we walked up to the Lake. The Lake itself held bathing Brent Geese and a few Mallard, Teal, Shoveler, Pintail and Wigeon, but the water level here was very high and though good for the ducks, it didn’t attract many waders, bar a small flock of Redshank resting on the water’s edge. I heard a Water Rail calling briefly, but failed to locate the bird from the watchpoint. Over the fields, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit and Curlew were feeding on the soggy grass. I checked the fields thoroughly for an early Wheatear, but the best on offer were either displaying Meadow Pipits or skulking Skylarks on the fields. A Rock Pipit flew past in a hurry then landed on the saltmarsh below the sea wall.

A Little Egret preening in the sunshine behind the Lake.

Drake Shoveler with Black-headed Gulls.

As we neared the Point Fields, we heard the distinctive call of a Mediterranean Gull and sure enough, high overhead was an adult bird wheeling high over, heading eastbound. The Point Field was very quiet, with no Stonechats present; but out over the harbour, we watched a large flock of Dunlin flying over Oyster Island. No sign of any Mergansers or Goldeneye off the Point and no Grebes either, which was unusual! The Deeps area held good numbers of wildfowl, but nothing unusual among them. Another Reed Bunting was seen flying out of the reedbed below us.

This colour ringed Brent Goose was seen on the south marsh. I have since found out that this individual was ringed in Holland in 2012.

An adult Med Gull was calling overhead.

Nearing the Information Centre, all the waders and Gulls took flight from the ‘Scrape’ area. The culprit was a female Sparrowhawk circling high overhead, until she drifted off east. The Stream area also looked quiet at first, but as we neared the Lake again, I found a Green Sandpiper wading by the water’s edge along with a Redshank. The Sandpiper was a year tick for John. They both didn’t hang around long and flew off over the reedbed, but a large flock of Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank remained and it least it gave us something to scan through for any possible goodies. A large flock of Gulls were also present here but no Laughing or Franklin’s Gull among them to get the pulses racing.

A large flock of Dunlin were seen flying over Oyster Island.

The Green Sandpiper by the Stream.

It was nice to catch up with John again and I was pleased he caught up with the Surf Scoter and ‘Waldo’ the Ring-billed Gull yesterday, despite the poor weather. Nigel Sivyer rang me today asking for directions for the Bean Goose on Chichester Gravel Pits and I am pleased to report that he caught up with the Goose for his year list. There was an interesting record reported this morning about a 1st winter Surf Scoter off Ryde, Isle of Wight, this morning. However, it was reidentifed as a 1st winter Velvet Scoter. A good bird to see, nonetheless. The drake Surf Scoter was still present this morning with the two Common Scoter in Stokes Bay. Will a Black Scoter be found soon within the Solent when all the Scoter flocks pass by during the Spring. Wouldn’t that be something?

Waders, Geese and Gulls resting on the Stream area.

Bean Goose added to year list to round off February.

Saturday 28th February 2015.

The Tundra Bean Goose with Grey lags.

The last day of February went out with another ‘year tick’, when I successfully found the Tundra Bean Goose with the Grey Lag Geese flock, on the East Trout Lake at Chichester Gravel Pits this morning. I was half expecting it to be in the field behind the lake, but, fortune smiled on me for a change, as the bird was swimming with the Geese on the lake.

A female Goldcrest searching for insects within a Long-tailed Tit flock.

The weather wasn’t good today, with overcast, drizzly conditions and a blustery wind blowing from the south west. I took Scruff with me this morning, for he needed to stretch his little legs as we started walking the footpath adjacent to Ivy Lake. There were plenty of Gulls resting by the water’s edge and a few Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls bathing on the water, but I couldn’t find anything unusual among them. It won’t be long before the first Little Gull will be found at this regular Spring site for them.

This confiding Robin was singing on Peckhams Copse Lane.

The number of wildfowl on the lakes is starting to thin, with only small numbers of Tufted Duck and Pochard present. I couldn’t find any Gadwall on my trip, but there were plenty of Canada Geese present on Ivy Lake. About half a dozen Great Crested Grebes were present and just the one Little Grebe seen this morning. The Dusky Warbler, which was present last month, has now long gone but one still keeps an ear or eye out for anything unusual skulking in the waterside trees and bushes. A flock of Long-tailed Tits held a female Goldcrest, which showed relatively well. But where were all the Chiffchaffs? A Kingfisher was seen all too briefly flying over the small Triangle Lake, then disappearing from view.

Winter Heliotrope growing by Peckhams Copse Lane.

Once I reached East Trout Lake, before reaching Peckhams Copse Lane, I could see the large gathering of Grey Lag Geese present on the water and it didn’t take me long to pick out the smaller Tundra Bean Goose among them. Though I took several photos of the bird, it remained on the other side of the lake throughout my stay; but it least I saw it.

One of the 'Sinensis' race Cormorants flying through the gloom overhead.

Viewing the lake from Peckhams Copse Lane, I noticed a lot of Cormorants were nesting already; many being of the ‘Sinensis’ race, sporting their white heads. A large gathering of both Shoveler and Pochard were present among the Tufted Ducks, but no other wildfowl of note. Maybe a late Smew might turn up here soon? Overhead, I flushed a Stock Dove from a tree, while another five more birds were seen feeding in the field nearby. Three Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew out of the same tree together, with one of them giving off its angry alarm call as they chased one another through the tree tops.

Stock Doves.

A drake Pochard between Tufties on Ivy Lake.

Not a great deal else seen on the way back to the car as the weather seemed to worsen, so I headed home. I kept an eye overhead for an early Sand Martin for I will not be surprised if one will be seen somewhere in the UK today. I was glad to see that John Goodall managed to see the Ring-billed Gull in Gosport and the superb Surf Scoter off Stokes Bay this morning.

The beautiful Great Crested Grebe on one of the smaller lakes.

Surf and Common Scoter added to year list.

Friday 27th February 2015.

The drake Surf Scoter off Stokes Bay today.

I met up with Nigel the Plumber this afternoon, down by Stokes Bay on a glorious sunny day, to view the drake Surf Scoter swimming with a couple of drake Common Scoters. I must admit, I got the directions all wrong and first ended up much further west in Lee-on-Solent, trying one of the car parks to overlook the Solent. I did pick up a pair of Eiders distantly on the sea, but too far to grab even a record shot. Another birder joined me briefly but even he soon disappeared to go to where the Scoter were seen last.

Remember, these birds were about half a mile out at sea. The Surf was joined by the two Common Scoters.

So, travelling east, I soon pulled into a car park overlooking Stokes Bay, along with many other birders viewing the Scoter, which included Nigel. Seconds later, I was watching my second Surf Scoter in Hamphire; the first being the female/immature bird in Langstone Harbour quite a few years ago (which was found by Mike Wearing). The bird was accompanied by another year tick, two drake Common Scoters (133 for the year) and though still fairly distant, through the scope they looked superb. All my photos of the birds were digiscoped, but I cannot say they turned out that well. Never mind.

Wait for us! The two drake Common Scoters playing catch up.

They were quite flighty at times as they drifted slowly west and after half an hour, they flew off westbound and landed at least a mile away. A couple of Great Crested Grebes were swimming on the Solent also.That was my cue to leave and make my way to Titchfield Haven for a spot of lunch and see what was there from the roadside.

Drake Pochard by Titchfield Haven.

The tide was making its way out in the Solent and waders were packing the mudflats and shoreline, which included Redshank, Dunlin, Oystercatcher and a few Sanderling. There were, apparently, two Spoonbills on the reserve, but I couldn’t see them from the roadside. After my lunch, I took a walk to the bridge to view the reserve and was pleased to see the female Marsh Harrier quartering the reedbeds. The bird seemed quite close so I hurried my step to see if I could get some half decent photos. But, when I arrived at the bridge, there was no sign of the Harrier.

The flock of Turnstone with Black-headed Gulls in the small creek.

Behind me, in the small creek, a young child was feeding the ducks and gulls with bits of bread. A Black Swan was on the water along with a gorgeous Pochard which showed very well for such a shy duck. A flock of around 20 Turnstone rested on the mud while nearby, several Redshanks were busy searching for food between the small boats.

A few Black-tailed Godwit and Lapwing among the Golden Plovers.

Back over the reserve, something put the waders to flight, which included at least 50 Golden Plover among the Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwit over the scrapes. A male Reed Bunting flew out of the reedbed in front of me and in the distance, the female Marsh Harrier was seen flying over the fields. Unfortunately, it didn’t come any closer, but it still looked superb in the strong sunshine with her creamy crown really standing out against her dark brown body and wings.

The female Marsh Harrier seen distantly over the reserve.

Drake Surf Scoter in Stokes Bay.

Thursday 26th February 2015.

I took a drive down to Lee on Solent this morning to, hopefully, catch up with yesterday’s drake Surf Scoter, which was swimming with a couple of Common Scoters in Stokes Bay. Found yesterday afternoon, I was too busy to go down for it and so, trying to get through the early morning traffic, I tried my luck. I knew the weather was closing in with heavy rain forecasted from 10am to about 2pm and I was seriously thinking of giving it a miss till much later this afternoon. Stupidity got the better of me!

Amy Robjohns photos of the drake Surf Scoter in Stokes Bay yesterday.

I have seen a few Surf Scoters in the past, the last being the one near the Eastern Road Bridge, near Farlington Marshes and before that, one in Portland Harbour; though it would still be a good year tick and being a nice drake and all!

The drake Surf Scoter between two Common Scoter in Stokes Bay. Photo taken by Bart Ives.

I arrived at the Elmore Car Park, along the Lee on Solent seafront, around 8.30am and came across a birder who said he was watching it at 8.15am this morning but the bird was drifting off west, although diving frequently. There was no sign of it when I arrived and so I tried my luck further west in from another car park. But, as luck would have it, the rain got heavier and visibility was poor; so I made my way home instead. It has been reported again in the same area at 10am and presently still there as I write this! So, hopefully, as the rain disappears, I shall try my luck again this afternoon.

My article in Tuesday's edition of the Portsmouth Evening News.

My article I wrote for the Portsmouth Evening News was printed in the Tuesday edition (photo attached) and both Amy Robjohns and Bart Ives kindly emailed over a photo of the actual drake Surf Scoter which they photographed yesterday. Cheers guys. I will also have to get my moth box up to scratch as some interesting moths are now being reported which included a Pale Brindled Beauty on the Isle of Wight, yesterday. Finally, right on cue, the first spring migrants have arrived with a Dotteral in Cornwall and a Wheatear in Norfolk!

Very cold in the Cemy this morning.

Tuesday 24th February 2015.

The footpath leading to the Mausoleum.

There was a very cold wind blowing around Highland Road Cemy today as I took Scruff for an early morning walk. Few dog walkers were present this morning, despite the sun shining and just a few white clouds in the sky. Like the dog walkers, there were relatively few birds too with just the usual birds present to make up the numbers. Spring is just around the corner now, but you wouldn’t have believed that with this morning’s temperatures which only hovered above freezing.

Blue Tit in search of insects.

A couple of Jays were, I suppose, the highlight of the morning! Seen flying away from me on the east side of the Cemy, they soon quickly disappeared into the big Holly tree in the south east corner. A few Blue Tits were busy searching for insects in the barest of branches within the trees near the Mausoleum, while only a few Blackbirds were seen, though one was a female; the first I have seen here for a few months.

Ssssh! It's down there somewhere, says this female Blackbird.

The usual Goldfinches were present with at least three birds seen and a pair of Greenfinches quickly flew off south on my approach. One thing I have noticed this winter is that the Collared Dove numbers are a lot less than last winter. I must have counted only around a dozen birds, when previous figures have been around in the 50’s! Maybe they have found a better place to feed? The Herring Gulls were again present on the grass, patting their feet to attract the earthworms and allowing a close approach.

One of the Herring Gulls.

A few plants were coming up through the ground, I noticed, with a few Daffodils in bloom on some of the graves. A few clumps of Groundsel was also found on some of the graves. I even found a small fly species perched on a gravestone near an Ivy plant; despite the cold weather.

Groundsel.

Marsh Harriers over Titchfield Haven.

Saturday 21st February 2015.

Stock Dove along the footpath.

The plan was to get at Posbrook Floods, by Titchfield Village, at dawn and hopefully find some Owls; notably Barn and Little Owl (normally, a good site for both species), but things didn’t go exactly to plan. I was woken up at around 3am this morning by a crying baby (nice one Isabelle!) and I simply couldn’t fall back to sleep. I had set my alarm for 6am of which I awoke with a start and then by 6.30am, I was on the road.

One of the 'drumming' Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

Overnight temperatures remained just above freezing at the overcast sky was slowly clearing to reveal a very sunny morning, but it was still cold. I took both my walking boots and my wellies and was so glad I did. The footpath adjacent to the canal was ridiculously muddy and damn right dangerous at times, too. How I never fell over, I don’t know! It was a shame really, for I spent far too much time watching where I was walking than birding, but nevertheless, though no Owls were visible today, I did notch up one more ‘year tick’.

The footpath was a joke! Tractors going down it didn't help matters either!

Drake Mallard keeping an eye on me.

As the light was beginning to come through, the sound of birdsong was near deafening. Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Robins, Great Tits and Dunnocks were all in full voice as was several male Reed Buntings and even a Chiffchaff was heard singing distantly. The first 200 yards of the footpath was simply a nightmare. I really had to be careful on my feet in the mud, so I stopped every so often to view the Floods to the east. Flocks of Black-tailed Godwit flew up from the south to land by the water, while large numbers of Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Pintail were dabbling on the floods. On one of the pools, there was at least 6 Pochards present.

A flock of 10 Curlew were resting in the fields.

A Robin singing its heart out by the footpath.

I caught sight of a displaying Kestrel over the fields, fiercely shivering its wings to attract a mate. There were plenty of Woodpeckers around with at least three Great Spotted Woodpeckers heard ‘drumming’, of which one was photographed high up in a tree along the main footpath. Several Green Woodpeckers were heard but only the one was seen. A Cetti’s Warbler showed relatively well by the canal edge, but too elusive to get a decent photo. At least two pairs of Goldcrests were seen along with a few flocks of Long-tailed Tit.

The same Robin.

Jews Ear fungus growing by the footpath.

Stonechats were abundant this morning, with at least 8 birds seen along the walk. One displaying male was actually singing to a very inquisitive female. I must have walked at least a mile down the footpath, when I thought I would then make my way back. I could only take so much of slipping and sliding around. I paused briefly to check the fields to the east and thankfully, all that aggro with the mud paid off when I spotted my first Marsh Harrier of the year (a female). The bird, unfortunately, was going to fly in front of the sun, so I quickly reeled off a few hopeful shots of the bird as it sailed effortlessly in front of the new Meadow Hide in the distance. The bird actually stooped down to mob what I thought was another Marsh Harrier, judging by its size and shape.

This photo of the female Marsh Harrier was more luck than judgement!

This singing male Chaffinch was just above my head.

On the way back, I watched three Roe Deer walk slowly across a field. These were two Bucks and a Doe. I came to the conclusion that the mud on the footpath had put off a lot of dogwalkers this morning as I only saw around three dogs in total. So, if anyone is reading this PLEASE TAKE YOUR WELLIES!

One of the buck Roe Deer.

Male Stonechat by the footpath.

First Water Rail of the year on Baffins Pond.

Friday 20th February 2015.

Baffins Pond this morning.

Don’t you just love it when you arrange a meeting with someone and they don’t turn up! I had arranged for a meeting with a representative of a company this afternoon at the new Sainsbury’s in Waterlooville for 2.30pm, but it was a no-show! Even a telephone call would have sufficed to say they could not make it, but there you go. Thankfully, this does not happen often, but it was a wasted 25 mile round trip nonetheless! Rant over; let’s write about some of the birds I saw today.

Another view of the Pond.

At 11am, after dropping off some paperwork for a prospective client in Portsmouth, I was just down the round from Baffins Pond, when I thought, I wonder if there are any Water Rails present like there was last winter? Parking the car on Tangier Road, adjacent to the Pond; I grabbed my binoculars and took a walk clockwise around the Pond.

I could see several pairs of Shoveler on the Pond close to the island in the centre, as well as around 10 pairs of Tufted Duck, along with the usual Mallard. A Cormorant rested on something poking out of the water, drying its spread wings. I soon came up to the first large clump of flattened down reeds and vegetation, but apart from Moorhens and Coots, no ‘Wally’ Rail. However, the next clump of vegetation by the footpath was much more fruitful. As I slowly walked up, one ‘spanking’ adult Water Rail, my first of the year, went scurrying across the sodden vegetation, disappearing somewhere on the raised area at the back of the clump, close to the water’s edge. I was hoping it might pop out again, but my wait was in vain.

Moving on, the next clump on the south side of Baffins Pond, held nothing whatsoever (I saw two here last year) and so I made my way back to the car. There was nothing else of note here, but it will not be long before the spring migrants turn up. Incredibly, I remember a few year back when someone had a Black Tern here!

After a spot of lunch and before my ill-fated meeting in Waterlooville, I took a drive down to Bedhampton Slipway. There was a Spring tide today and most of the islands in the north of the harbour were submerged under the water! With literally no wind present, the water was dead still and so it was easy to check the harbour through the scope for anything of note. Close by, up to 10 Goldeneye were present, which included at least four gorgeous drakes and two immature drakes. Even the latter birds were throwing their heads back in courtship to the females.

View of the Spring tide in Langstone Harbour from Bedhampton Slipway.

Red-breasted Mergansers were prominent within the harbour with at least 38 birds counted, which included one flock of 16 birds. Just the one Great Crested Grebe was seen along with a couple of Little Grebes, but none of the rarer Grebes were on show today. Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard and Pintail were abundant, swimming on the water along with the Brent Geese and as I was carefully checking the islands, I watched a Skylark flying low over the harbour, heading towards the Hayling Oysterbeds. The distinctive call of a Rock Pipit was heard and a total of three birds were seen flying west overhead.

I didn’t have my camera with me today and so all the photos were taken with my iphone. I still need Greenshank for my year list, but most of the waders present were on the islands within the harbour (the ones that were not submerged, that is!), but I can wait patiently for that species. Weather permitting, I hope to do an early morning spot of birding at Titchfield Haven tomorrow.

Flowers in bloom within the Cemy.

Wednesday 18th February 2015.

Some of the many Goldfinches present today. Many were singing.

I had a few hours spare late morning and so I took Scruff for a walk around Highland Road Cemetery. The early morning blue sky was now covered with high cloud, but the sun did poke out occasionally plus it was quite mild. I was hoping for my butterflies to be on the wing, but maybe it is still a tad too early. I haven’t been around the Cemy for a while and I was pleased to see most of the usual suspects being present.

Blackbirds were abundant today.

Jays rarely show right out in the open.

While getting the binoculars and camera out on my arrival, I was dismayed to see a lot of rubbish left on the grass, which I picked up and put in the nearby bin. Unfortunately, the Cemy attracts some unsavoury characters who like to unload their rubbish for someone else to pick up. On a happier note, both Daffodils and Crocuses were in bloom in several areas of the Cemy, reminding me that the first migrant might be coming through shortly. A Bumble bee species was seen over one of the graves in the south west corner, which was probably utilising the flowers just mentioned.

A Starling high up in the trees.

Birds were at a bit of a premium at times, but Goldfinches seem to be abundant throughout the area. One flock held over 10 birds. A couple of Greenfinches were also seen high up in the trees, but no Chaffinches today. One, possibly two, Jays were seen briefly in the trees and the Green Woodpecker was seen also, but fleetingly, as it flew across the Cemy and landed high up in one of the taller trees. At least 10 Blackbirds were seen during my walk and a Wren was heard ‘churring’ someone deep within vegetation.

This male Greenfinch was seen high up in the trees also.

Highland Road Cemetery is rich with history and I came across a grave I have noticed before, which holds the remains of Reginald Robinson Lee, who was a look-out on the Titanic! And he even survived the incident.

The grave of Mr Reginald Robinson Lee.

A very long trip to the Isle of Portland.

Tuesday 17th February 2015.

The view from Sandsfoot Castle with the Isle of Portland in the background.

The wall-to-wall sunshine must have brought out some form of madness today as I got caught up in three long traffic accident queues on three different stretches of road between Hampshire and Dorset. I must have lost 3 hours of my life, sat in my vehicle while the chaos was sorted out as I took a trip to the Isle of Portland today. Hooded Crow, Black Guillemot, Black Redstart and various other potential year ticks beckoned today and seeing I have been extremely busy with Workplace Pensions of late, I treated myself to a day off.

Red-breasted Mergansers seen in Portland Harbour from Portland Castle.

The less said about trying to get to Weymouth, the better, but when I did get there, my first stop was to be Sandsfoot Castle, overlooking Portland Harbour. The tide was low within the harbour and with quite a few youngsters enjoying half term on the beach here, I didn’t expect to see all that much when I arrived. A quick sweep through the binoculars revealed a few interesting things sitting on the dead calm water. A little way out and through the scope, I picked up my first Eider of the year, a female, which has been present here some time, with a few Mergansers in attendance.

Mergansers were abundant in large flocks within the harbour, but there was no sign of the Black-necked and Slavonian Grebes which had been seen this morning, apparently. I found a few Great Crested Grebes and one Grebe that looked suspiciously like a Red-necked, but the light and distance was against me. Strangely, I couldn’t find one Diver either; despite the fact both Great Northern and Black-throated had also been reported this morning. Where were they? I arrived here at 11am and I suppose all the small sailing craft might have flushed them to another part of the harbour?

Shags perched up on the sea wall.

I couldn’t find much else of note here and after a brief encounter with a chap with a canoe, who persisted in telling me how superb he was with it, I headed off to Portland Castle. Once parked up here, I kept an eye out for the Black Redstart reported here yesterday. Despite seeing several Rock Pipits, Pied Wagtails and even a Robin that tried it’s hardest to be Black Redstart; there was no sign of any. More kids were playing on the shoreline here (fume!) with their mother supervising but also there were an elderly couple of birders who were just leaving. They kindly gave me directions in which to find the Black Guillemot and also told me of the recent sightings here this morning.

Rock Pipit by Portland Castle.

The Black Guillemot was fishing just below a small yellow buoy and was accompanied by a juvenile Herring Gull, which hassled it when it surfaced. It was too far out to get a photo of it, but I was pleased to put the bird on my year list. Other birds in the area included a good number of Shags either on the harbour wall or on the water. No Grebes or Divers here and so, taking the advice from the elderly birders who gave me directions for the Hooded Crow, I headed off to The Grove.

Ravens high over The Grove.

Though I have been coming to Portland since I was a teenager, I have never once ever been to The Grove; so finding the exact place to find the Hooded Crow was going to be a challenge. I eventually did find the place (a small Pig Farm) but, at first, I took a wrong route near the Prison and ended up walking to the cliffs. It did pay off with my first Fulmars of the year, skimming low close to the cliff edge, but trying to get a half decent image of them proved harder than I thought as they certainly do ‘shift’ when at close range! Overhead, a pair of Ravens ’cronked’ by with a Common Buzzard in near attendance (one of several seen today over Portland).

One of several Fulmars by the cliffs at The Grove.

I did eventually find the small single track road leading to the Pig Farm, but after a long walk with no joy, I tried my luck looking through some rusty gates. The awful smell gave it away and then the noise of Pigs confirmed it, but my view was very poor and though I hanged around for about 20 minutes, scanning through the Crows for the ‘Hooded’ variety, the star bird never materialised, although I have been told it was a bit ‘hit and miss’ in sighting the bird. Bugger! A male Kestrel patiently sitting on top of a small tree near the car park was scant consolation.

This male Kestrel posed nicely by the small car park.

After picking up some dinner in Easton, I drove down the Bill car park and devoured my lunch. Unfortunately, the world and his wife also came down here and so I knew that finding anything of interest was going to be challenging. But, hey ho, this is the infamous Isle of Portland and anything is possible? Walking around cliff edge near the Obilisk, I couldn’t find any Black Redstarts (honestly, with all these people about?), but I had to try looking! I done a good scan over the sea and soon picked up several Guillemots bobbing on the water and many more flying out over the sea. So, at least I picked up another year tick today.

There were no sign of any Purple Sandpipers on the rocks but at least half a dozen Rock Pipits took their place, feeding on the freshly exposed seaweed areas. A few Gannets drifted distantly offshore, but I knew that very little will be passing by. I wasn’t really in the frame of mind to go off in search around the island and so I got back in the car and made my way home to join another long traffic accident queue! Four more year ticks today wasn’t too bad, I suppose, but I really would like to spend a ‘whole’ day here one day. My wife’s ex-sister in law now lives on the island, so maybe I could stay with them one day?

I have contacted Beverley in the Fareham Office of the Portsmouth Evening News and she has asked me to start writing for them again. So, watch this space, folks. I saw my first butterfly of the year today; a Small Tortoiseshell flying over the main road as I was driving off Portland.

A gloomy morning at Longwood Warren.

Sunday 15th February 2015.

A very overcast Longwood Warren.

I took a long drive to Cheesefoot Head early this morning, to take a long stroll around Longwood Warren. My target birds this morning, were both Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting, which both were safely added to my year list. The only downside was the poor visibility as the sun couldn’t burn off the low cloud over the countryside. But, despite this, there was plenty of birdlife to be seen as well as a few mammals on show.

Vast numbers of Corvids were present in the gulley. Sheep were in the neighbouring field, which attracted the corvids.

This female Peregrine was flushing everything over the countryside.

I took Scruff with me this morning, stretching the little guy’s legs as he kept just in front of me as we walked south adjacent to the gulley. Dozens of both Red-legged Partridge and Pheasant flew up in front of us, with many more in the nearby fields and overhead, huge numbers of Corvids (Rooks, Carrion Crows and Jackdaws) and Wood Pigeon flew over; the latter had one flock in excess of over a 1000+ birds in one flock. The noise of their wings going over was like a small roar and reminiscent of the Passenger Pigeon stories!

Yellowhammers perched up in bushes by the Gulley.

The Crows were none too happy with a female Peregrine hunting over the countryside here. Several times I saw the bird flying low over the fields then go off chasing something in the distance, though I think she was spoilt for choice in what to go for. Other raptors present this morning included at least six Common Buzzards and a single Kestrel. No sign of any Red Kites, which was a surprise.

Female Yellowhammer.

Skylarks were in good voice with many males seen singing over the fields. The bushes within the Gulley held good numbers of Yellowhammers. Several Corn Buntings were also seen among them and at least two Reed Buntings were heard calling, though visibility was poor to get any decent photos. Chaffinches were abundant with the Yellowhammers and a few Linnet flocks took flight as I passed. A single female Stonechat was seen on the footpath on the way back. To save it wasting energy by flying short distances away from me, I walked back into the field and rounded the bird, then walked back along the footpath.

Just part of an enormous flock of Wood Pigeons over.

Mammals present along my walk included a single Hare that was crouched down within a field and also a Roe Deer, which burst out of cover within the Gulley, then ran off to hide into the brambles on the far side of the Gulley. On the drive home along the A272, there were many clumps of Snowdrops along the roadside; a nice reminder that Spring is nearly here.

Female Stonechat searching for food in the fields above the gulley.