Sunday 21 August 2011

Sabine's gull hangs around for us in Dorset.

I haven't been twitching for many a month and I have missed the trips a bit. I was sceptical about a gull in Dorset, a gull which could easily fly off at any moment. David Campbell suggested waiting for news on the pager before leaving but I thought it would be best to go early and go somewhere else if the Sabine's gull didn't show.

As it turned out, we saw the first winter gull about 15 minutes after arriving. It was easy to see when you had seen it and realised how different it was from the 1,500-2,000 or so black-headed gulls in the same field! It was quite distant, though it did fly over from one side of the causeway to the other, allowing the odd flight shot. I'd like to see this gull in full breeding plumage; much more impressive!

Sabine's gull - first winter

Sabine's gull - first winter

After the gull and a coffee we went to Acres Down in the New Forest where David was keen to see a honey buzzard. It was raining at first but this cleared the air so visibility when it stopped was good. David picked out a juvenile goshawk in a distant tree while I found a lovely pair of redstarts nearby.

Common redstart - female.

The skies were however almost devoid of raptors until the sun came out. We saw a few goshawks, one being mobbed by a hobby and another by a sparrowhawk!! There were a whole army of common buzzards but no honey buzzards. The sun meant that heat haze set in and made scrutiny of distant raptors more difficult. As time wore on David became more desperate, threatening dire consequences if he didn't see a honey buzzard by next spring!!

By 3.30 the skies were again largely empty, although two lovely common buzzards appeared almost overhead showing as close as any we had seen.

We wandered slowly back to the car, had tea and cake in the farm garden before heading for Blackwater Arboretum. I wanted to see hawfinches and David was hoping for crossbills which were not flying over. The arboretum, a gorgeous oasis of tranquility amid the huge conifers, produced crossbills flying over at regular intervals but denying us any good views of the birds perched. Perseverance paid off, however. Finally, we managed to find some feeding at the top of a very tall tree.

Crossbill - male

There were no hawfinches that day, but there was lots of other avian activity. A great spotted woodpecker bashed away at a very large cone while a coal tit looked on expectantly.

Great spotted woodpecker

A firecrest flitted quickly in the lower branches of a nearby tree. A juvenile common buzzard led us a merry dance, calling constantly. We thought it was airborne and that we couldn't see it only because of the tall trees. It turned out to be perched and was just calling to its mother as young birds do!!

Common buzzard - juvenile

All in all, a very enjoyable day. Thanks David.

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